Environmental Site Assessments

Environmental site assessments are completed to assess whether land is contaminated or suitable for its current or proposed land use.

You might need an environmental site assessment when buying land or a business, redeveloping land, DA application, or wanting to understand whether your land is contaminated or affected by chemicals.

A simple environmental site assessment includes a basic desktop review or site walkover while a more detailed assessment includes evaluating soil, groundwater and/or soil vapour conditions.

Assessments and reports are generally compliant with relevant state and federal guidelines such as:

•    NSW Contaminated Land Management Act 1997
•    ACT Contaminated Sites Environment Protection Policy 2009
•    National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 2013

Note: don’t be confused by the following terms, they’re used interchangeably these days: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment and Preliminary Site Investigation, Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment and Detailed Site Investigation.

Phase 1 and Phase 2 ESAs

A Phase 1 ESA will identify potentially contaminating activities due to current and former site use; identify potential types of contamination; discuss the overall environmental condition of the site; develop a preliminary conceptual site model of potential source, exposure pathways and receptors; provide a preliminary assessment of site contamination and assess the need for additional or intrusive investigations.

A Phase 2 ESA will assess the issues raised by the Phase 1 ESA and assess the nature, extent and level of contamination and whether human health or environmental risks may exist. This typically involves developing a sampling and analysis plan; soil sampling via excavated test pits or boreholes established via drilling rigs or hand auger; installing monitoring bores to assess groundwater conditions via sampling; assessing soil vapour conditions via the installation of soil vapour bores; analysing soil, groundwater and soil vapour samples by NATA-accredited laboratories for contaminants of potential concern; evaluating data against established screening levels; compiling and reporting gathered data; concluding whether the site is with respect to contamination suitable for the current or proposed land use.

We have the knowledge and experience to tailor site assessments to your needs.

Remedial Action Plans and Site Validation

Should contamination exist that poses an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment, remediation (or clean up) may be necessary.  And remediation means you need a plan to make render your land suitable for its land use.  These plans are called remedial action plans or RAPs.

The RAP sets the remediation goal; outlines the extent of remediation required; assesses potential remedial options available; documents testing to demonstrate site suitability; provides contingency plans; establishes site management plans required to complete the remediation in an environmentally acceptable manner; and identifies necessary licenses and approvals required by regulatory authorities.

Once remedial work is complete, a validation report is necessary that details all of the work completed to demonstrate site suitability.

Waste Classification

Redeveloping your land may result in surplus soil material that may requires off-site disposal.  This soil material is considered a ‘waste’ and must be managed properly which requires classification in accordance with relevant guidelines.  Soil may also be classified as virgin excavated natural material (VENM) or excavated natural material (ENM).

Soil material can either be classified in-situ before work commences or ex-site once excavation is underway.  In-situ samples can be collected from test pits or soil bores while ex-situ samples are collected from stockpiles of excavated material.  Ideally, samples are collected in-situ prior to work commencing to avoid lengthy schedule delays and reduce potential budget overruns.  Soil samples are analysed for contaminants of potential concern and compared to waste classification guidelines.  The sampling and analysis is documented in a waste classification report for the landfill/facility.

The material can now be disposed off-site but must be transported by a licensed contractor to a licensed landfill.

Acid Sulfate Soil Assessments

Acid sulfate soils are the common name given to soils containing iron sulfides which were generally formed in tidal areas.  Disturbance of acid sulfate soils has the potential to generate acid which if released can cause significant environmental harm(kill fish and animals) or damage structures and buildings.  Management of acid sulfate soils may be required.  To find out if management is required, we will review acid sulfate soil risk maps and conduct field sampling and laboratory testing of soils in accordance with the Acid Sulfate Soils Manual (ASSMAC).

SWE can develop acid sulfate soil management plans to meet your needs.

Underground and Above Ground Storage Tank (UST/AST) Assessments

Storage tanks [(underground and above ground storage tanks (USTs and ASTs)] have been used in many buildings to store heating oil or fuel to emergency power generation.  Historically, these tanks were constructed of steel, which tends to corrode over time and can cause contamination of the surrounding soil and groundwater resulting in costly clean-up bills.

There are statutory obligations related to the management and operation of storage tanks including: a system for detecting and monitoring leaks; groundwater monitoring wells at sensitive locations and a program to test them; an Environment Protection Plan for the facility; systems in place for record keeping, reporting of leaks and notifying the local council when a UPSS is decommissioned.

SWE can you to meet these obligations.

UST/AST Validation

Inactive storage tanks must typically be removed in accordance with Australian Standards and local guidelines/regulations.  Leaking storage tanks should be removed/repaired to prevent harm.  This includes appropriate decommissioning, abandonment and validation of associated works.

SWE can provide advice and manage this process for you in a safe and time effective manner.