The EPA Division maintains a number of databases which record potentially contaminating activities and instances of site contamination.
This information is often useful to potential purchasers of properties who want to determine if there are any outstanding environmental issues relating to a property prior to the finalisation of the purchase and may also be useful to environmental consultants when conducting historical site investigations. Some financial institutions may also require a PIR to be conducted prior to lending money for the purchase of a property.
It is worth noting that, under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA), a land owner may, under certain circumstances, become responsible for the investigation, remediation and/or management of a contaminated site, even when they may not have been the actual polluter. A PIR is one avenue for a potential purchaser of a property to identify any environmental issues on the land and therefore, any liability that they may potentially be taking on prior to purchasing the land.
It is recommended that information relating to contamination issues at a specific property only be requested if there is a reason to believe that contamination may have occurred on the site. For example, if fuel tanks existed on the site and/or any other environmentally relevant activities have occurred on the site or in the area surrounding the site.
Environmentally relevant activities are potentially contaminating activities, industries or land uses that may cause environmental harm. Sites that host or have historically hosted potentially contaminating activities generally have a higher likelihood of causing soil and/or groundwater contamination due to the nature of the activity and/or the types of chemicals used by the activity. View a list of potentially contaminating activities.
You may request information for a property by submitting a Property Information Request Form (PIR Form) to the Contaminated Sites Unit (CSU). The PIR Form is available under Related Documents to the right of this page. The response will outline any records held regarding soil or water contamination.
The EPA Division holds information in relation to:
- Sites currently or formerly regulated under the EMPCA by the EPA Division or its predecessors;
- Environmental complaints and incidents;
- Sites that have been registered under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulations 2010 (UPSS Regulations) as hosting the storage of fuels or lubricants in UPSS;
- Sites that have been assessed by the CSU upon requirement of a planning authority because they are potentially contaminated and are being redeveloped to a more sensitive use; and
- Sites that have been notified to the EPA Division under Sections 32 and 74B of the EMPCA as potentially contaminated sites.
The property information search includes the site and neighbouring properties in order to determine the likelihood of potential on- and off-site contamination.
Please note the search includes a limited number of records. The absence of any records for a site does not infer there are no contamination issues, merely that the EPA Division does not hold any information on contamination in relation to that site.
Depending upon the site history, further investigations may be needed to determine if the site is contaminated. It should also be noted that a PIR does not indemnify the person of their responsibilities under the EMPCA, and should only be seen as one potential source for obtaining information of potential or known contamination regarding a parcel of land.
Results of Search
If the potential for on-site contamination is considered likely (or contamination on neighbouring properties could affect the site), then it is recommended that an environmental site assessment (ESA) be undertaken or obtained to determine the nature and extent of any potential contamination and the potential risk to human health and the environment.
An ESA should be conducted by a competent environmental assessment practitioner ( see http://epa.tas.gov.au/regulation/engaging-a-contaminated-land-consultant).
Submitting a PIR
To have a PIR conducted, please send a completed Property Information Request Form (PIR Form) to the Contaminated Sites Unit (CSU). The PIR Form is available under Related Documents to the right of this page.
Information relating to the property’s address, Certificate of Title and Property Identification number should be gathered from the Land Information System Tasmania (theLIST) available at http://www.thelist.tas.gov.au/. Please note that where a Certificate of Title or Property Identification number is not available, a map clearly outlining the property to be searched may be used, however, it is recommended that you discuss this with the CSU prior to submitting the PIR Form.
The Contaminated Sites Unit will conduct a search of the relevant databases for any records in relation to soil and/or groundwater pollution issues at the specified site, including any adjacent properties which may be contaminated and potentially affecting the site in question.
The CSU endeavours to complete PIRs within 10 business days of receiving the PIR Form, however, some searches may take longer, for example, if the EPA holds numerous records in relation to the site (e.g. sites that have hosted large industrial activities over long periods of time). Please note any deadlines on the PIR Form to help the CSU prioritise any urgent requests.
However, it is your responsibility to ensure that if working to a deadline, searches are submitted, as a minimum, 10 days prior to your deadline. The CSU must prioritise PIRs against its current workloads and often cannot facilitate faster turnaround times.
If intending to submit a large number of PIRs at one time, please contact the CSU to give prior notice. In this circumstance it is unlikely that all PIRs would be completed within the 10 day timeframe.
The level of detail that can be released by the EPA is limited. For example, if the PIR identifies a number of environmental site assessment reports relating to the site, the letter will usually reference relevant reports, however, the EPA cannot provide copies of reports.
Nevertheless, under the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) you are entitled to apply for any records mentioned within the PIR letter (e.g. reports, letters etc). For further information on how the RTI process works and how to request information under the RTI Act please visit the Right to Information website.
From 1 July 2016, the Tasmanian Government will charge $229.50 for each property searched (which may include multiple titles). The fee is set at 2 times the hourly rate. If the hourly rate increases on 1 July in future years the search fee will also increase. An invoice will be sent to the applicant after the completion of the search.
Other Sources of Information
Local Councils are also able to issue EPNs, Environmental Infringement Notices and record complaints and may also have records in relation to a site’s history. Therefore, it is recommended that you also contact the local Council to determine if they may hold any relevant information in relation to the property.
Please note that if dangerous goods (including fuels) have been historically, or are currently, stored at a site, WorkSafe Tasmania (WST) may have issued a dangerous goods licence(s) and may hold records of requested licences for a site.
As the storage of dangerous goods is regarded as a PCA, you may wish to contact WST on 1300 366 322 (within Tasmania), (03) 6173 0206(outside of Tasmania) or email@example.com.
The EPA publishes lists of individuals and corporations that have been prosecuted (by court proceedings) for violating environmental legislation.