On the 30 May 2013 I said the following to the House and no-one was listening:
"It was not a failure of the Act, but a failure by the Environment Protection Authority to be accountable to various Ministers for more than two decades. For decades the Environment Protection Authority has failed this State in not exercising its statutory powers.
The Environment Protection Authority has had the power to prevent incidents such as the Orica spill at Newcastle and to prevent people from suffering as a result of contamination at Port Botany groundwater contamination, air pollution or contamination from coal dust at Newcastle. The Environment Protection Authority has the power to prosecute when there is a breach but it has failed the State, just as the State Pollution Control Commission, its predecessor, failed. It was ...legislation...gave the Environment Protection Authority power to tackle those with vested interests and polluters and to take action to protect the people of this State. However, like its predecessor decades ago, the Environment Protection Authority has been a failure. This failure has occurred under the Minister's watch and she is accountable to the House for the conduct of the Environment Protection Authority."Today, 5 years later somebody listened. The NSW Auditor-General found that the EPA is failing to fulfill its basic functions to properly regulate and monitor licences that impact on NSW drinking water supplies, and failing to stop illegal dumping.
The report indicates that these failures could harm the environment and risk human health.
The performance audit report Regulation of Water Pollution of Drinking Water Catchments and Illegal Disposal of Waste reported that:
- These deficiencies [identified in the report] mean that the EPA cannot be confident that it conducts compliance and enforcement activities consistently across the State and that licensees are complying with their licence conditions or the Act. (p1)
- The EPA also does not monitor the consistency or quality of its regulatory activities conducted across the State. (p2, analysis on p11)
- The EPA cannot be sure that correct licence conditions have been set for discharges into water. (p2, analysis on p16)
- The triennial 2016 Audit of Sydney Drinking Water Catchment report, identified that Lake Burragorang had experienced worsening water quality over the past 20 years due to increased salinity. The report recommended that the sources and implications of the increased salinity levels be investigated. To date, no NSW Government agency has addressed the report's recommendation. (p2, analysis on p18)
- The EPA’s unreliable detection practices, and weaknesses in its governance approach, limits its effectiveness to consistently apply regulatory action. (p3, analysis on p13)
- Given our finding that the EPA does not effectively detect breaches and non-compliances, there is a risk that it is not applying appropriate regulatory actions for many breaches and non-compliances. (p30)
- The EPA did not achieve the strategy target of a 30 per cent reduction over four years in instances of large scale illegal dumping in Sydney, the Illawarra, Hunter and Central Coast from 2011 levels. (p3, analysis on p33)
- The EPA does limited monitoring of its performance in protecting the environment. (p4, analysis on p14)
The State's Opposition is calling on the Premier for current Minister Upton responsible for the EPA to be sacked. We are talking about human health. Is that not the government's prime responsibility? In my view after 8 long years the people should sack the Liberal government. "It's time."