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New Bunding and Spill Management Guidelines

18 April 2016

The safe above ground storage of environmentally hazardous substances is a primary concern for the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as these materials are a potential source of contaminants that could cause significant environmental damage.

These materials, mainly liquids, are often stored in above ground tanks or containers and care must be taken in order to prevent or reduce the risk of a spill or leakage. The EPA recommends using a spill containment system (or bund) and has released new guidelines in order to assist operators in the effective design and management of these systems.

The EPA’s Bunding and Spill Management Guidelines is designed for operators across a broad range of industries, who run facilities that use, store or process any environmentally hazardous materials or liquids in above ground storage tanks or containers. It provides information on spill containment systems (primarily bunds) to minimise the risk of environmental harm from material and liquid spills or leaks.

The document shows how to manage bunds effectively, including how to carry out preventative maintenance and how to use standard operating procedures so as to prevent materials from escaping and entering the environment. The aim is to minimise the risk of pollution, injury and damage to property and ensure operators meet their relevant environmental management requirements.

Almost all liquids (apart from uncontaminated water) can cause pollution or pose an environmental hazard in sufficient quantities. These include hazardous materials such as chemical reagents, pesticides and petroleum compounds as well as substances, such as milk, which although not hazardous on worker or public health grounds, could cause serious environmental harm if released in large quantities.

A bund is an impervious embankment or wall (eg made of brick, stone or concrete, or other suitable materials), which provides a secondary containment area around facilities containing materials or liquids used, stored or processed above ground. It is designed to contain spillages and leaks from these tanks and containers, and to facilitate clean-up operations.

Bunds are used widely, not only to minimise the risk of spillage from tanks or containers, but also for fire protection, product recovery and process isolation. They are also a useful measure to reduce the likelihood of site soil and groundwater contamination and subsequent remediation and rehabilitation costs.

The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 requires anyone undertaking an activity that may pollute, "to take such steps as are practicable and reasonable to prevent or minimise environmental harm or nuisance". Hence these guidelines have a wide application. In the case of Level 2 operations, the conditions of an Environment Protection Notice, Permit or other legal instrument may explicitly require the operator to have bunding in place.

This guide will assist operators to understand when bunding is required, and what type should be used as this depends on the level of risk and the type of facility. There are some general rules to follow when designing and constructing bunds, and for minimising the risk of spills to the environment.

The detailed recommendations cover construction materials, capacity, drainage, piping, pumping, roofing and the approvals required, as well as the operation and maintenance of bunds, and management in the event of spills. The guide also addresses loading and unloading of materials to and from bunds.

Follow the link to download a copy of the Bunding and Spill Management Guidelines

For further information on bunding and spill management, please contact the Industrial Operations Section of the EPA on 6165 4599.