National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality – Commonwealth monitoring plan
Environment Australia May, 2001
In June 1998 the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for Ambient Air Quality was made with the desired outcome of ambient air quality that allows for the adequate protection of human health and well-being. The Measure requires each participating jurisdiction to submit to NEPC a plan setting out how the jurisdiction proposes to monitor air quality for the purposes of the Measure.
Clause 14 of the NEPM specifies the number of performance monitoring stations required for regions with populations over 25,000 people. Currently, there are no regions with a population above this threshold in non-self governing Commonwealth territories or Commonwealth places. The NEPM protocol therefore does not require any direct monitoring in Commonwealth regions. Although no direct monitoring is required, the Commonwealth will continue to report annually and to remain active in the NEPM process.
On 26 June 1998, the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC), consisting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers, made the Measure on Ambient Air Quality (hereafter referred to as the Measure). This Measure established a set of Standards and Goal for six air pollutants, and outlined the methods by which these pollutants are to be measured, assessed and reported.
A formal requirement of the Measure is the establishment of monitoring procedures and commencement of assessment and reporting, in accordance with the protocols of the Measure, within three years after its commencement.
After making the Measure, Ministers resolved to establish a Peer Review Committee (PRC) to advise on jurisdictional monitoring plans. Under its terms of reference, the PRC has two complementary roles. First, the PRC is required to advise the NEPC on the adequacy of monitoring plans submitted by jurisdictions. Secondly, it provides advice on technical issues related to the consistent implementation of the Measure's monitoring protocol. The PRC has developed a series of guideline papers that provide a basis for the preparation of individual monitoring plans (by jurisdictions) and for the assessment of monitoring plans (by the PRC).
It should be noted that the monitoring conducted as part of the requirements of the Measure may represent only a sub-set of the total ambient air monitoring program of some jurisdictions.
This Report represents the Commonwealth submission on how it plans to monitor, assess and report air quality for the purposes of the Measure.
The Report is structured according to the format specified by the PRC. This includes a consideration of:
- Regions to be monitored
- Monitoring requirements of each region
- Siting and instrumentation
Because no Commonwealth region meets the NEPM threshold of a population greater than 25,000, no direct monitoring is required under the NEPM protocol. On the other hand, this plan provides a formal basis for the Commonwealth role in the NEPM process.
Under Clause 14(1) of the Measure, performance monitoring may be required in regions with a population exceeding 25,000 people. Three types of regions have been identified by the PRC for consideration:
Type 1 – A large urban or town complex with a population in excess of 25,000 requiring direct monitoring and contained within a single airshed
Type 2 – A region with no one population centre above 25,000 but with a total population above 25,000 and with significant point source or area based emissions as to require a level of direct monitoring
Type 3 – A region with a population in excess of 25,000 but with no significant point or area based emissions, so that ancillary data can be used to infer that direct monitoring is not required.
The PRC uses Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 'urban centre' population data to provide a transparent basis for the identification of Type 1 regions. Identification of Type 2 regions is dependent upon local knowledge of emission sources and airshed characteristics.
3.1 Commonwealth regions
The 1996 census figures from the ABS show that there is no Commonwealth region with a population above 25,000 people, and so there are no Type 1 or Type 3 regions to be considered for monitoring. The dispersed nature of Commonwealth regions means that there are also no Type 2 regions. A brief description of Commonwealth regions is given below in order to demonstrate that no Commonwealth region requires direct monitoring under the NEPM. The areas considered for reporting are Non-Self Governing Territories, federally leased airports and military installations.
Non-Self Governing Territories consist of:
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands - population 655; 27 islands 14 sq kms. Activities: airport
- Christmas Island – population 1,906; 135 sq kms. Activities: phosphate mining
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands – uninhabited
- Coral Sea Islands – only Willis Island inhabited (four meteorological staff)
- Jervis Bay – population 760. Activities: HMAS Cresswell Navy College
- Australian Antarctic Territory
- Heard and McDonald Islands
Norfolk Island is a self-governing territory with a population of 1,700 and is not a party to the NEPM. Its activities are mainly tourism.
None of Australia's External Territories require direct monitoring under the NEPM, nor do they have a significant pollution source.
Federal leased airports
The 22 leased federal airports are regulated under the Airports Act 1996 (the Act) and its regulations including the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 (the Regulations).
Defence has a relatively large and diverse property management portfolio with over 400 facilities and approximately 3 million hectares of land across Australia.
As demonstrated in Section 3, there is no requirement for performance monitoring in Commonwealth regions. However, Appendix A is included in the plan to provide some background on the nature of air quality management issues in Commonwealth regions.
As no performance monitoring is required in Commonwealth regions, the Commonwealth plan does not include information on siting and instrumentation.
As the Commonwealth is not required to conduct performance monitoring, the Commonwealth plan does not include information on accreditation of monitoring activities.
The Commonwealth will continue to provide annual reports to NEPC under the NEPM process.
Christmas Island phosphate mine
A dust suppression program has been progressively implemented by the Christmas Island Phosphates (CIP) mining company, with the final stage completed in August 2000. This has resulted in dust from mining activity being managed and collected by the mining company for sale and the excess used for rehabilitation and construction purposes rather than vented to the atmosphere.
During ship-loading operations dust is still occasionally blown in the direction of settled areas and there are provisions in CIP's current environmental licence, issued in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA)(CI), for ship-loading to be temporarily suspended in the event of excessive nuisance being caused by this dust.
The Western Australian Department of Environmental Protection provides advice on environmental matters through a service agreement with the Territories and Regional Support Division of the Department of Transport and Regional Services. The current environmental licence is due for renewal in December 2001 when conditions may be altered if required. Appropriate mechanisms are in place on Christmas Island to monitor and to modify monitoring of particulate pollution from the phosphate mine.
Federal leased airports management and monitoring
The Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 (the Regulations) require both airport-lessee companies and airport operators, those that undertake operations on the airport, to manage the environmental impact of their activities on the airport site. One of these requirements is the management of air quality.
The Act requires leased federal airports, with the exclusion of Tennant Creek and Mount Isa Airports, to develop an Environment Strategy within 12 months of lease purchase. The Airport Environment Strategy must include: the sources of environmental impact associated with the airport operations; and the studies, review and monitoring to be carried out by the airport-lessee company in connection with this impact.
Further, the Regulations require an Airport Environment Strategy to address the following air quality issues:
- the quality of air at the airport site, and in so much of the regional airshed as is reasonably likely to be affected by airport activities;
- release, into the air, of substances that deplete stratospheric ozone; and
- usage of energy the production of which generates emissions of gases known as 'greenhouse gases'.
The Regulations also require all airport-lessee companies and operators to take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or to minimise the generation of pollution on the airport site. A set of limits for various air pollutants is provided in Schedule 1 of the Regulations. This provides a standard to which airports are expected to comply. Where these limits are deemed inappropriate for a particular airport site, a local standard may be established with the approval of the Minister.
Each airport-lessee company has developed an Airport Environment Strategy (a Strategy) specific to the needs of their site, which has been approved by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services (the Minister). Each Strategy includes a set of timed commitments which outline how the legislated requirements will be met and relevant issues addressed. Programs of monitoring and management are set out within the Strategy.
Airport-lessee companies are required to provide the Department with an Annual Environment Report, which includes reporting on progress against commitments set out in their Airport Environment Strategy.
Actions implemented at airports Each airport has implemented a range of actions to address the air quality requirements of the Airport Environment Strategy. Actions include monitoring programs, audits of polluting operations on the airport, minimising emissions from storage of paints, fuel, and other chemicals, and minimising the effects of fire-fighting training activities. Some examples have been highlighted below:
Each airport-lessee company has developed an environment strategy appropriate for its airport site, which involves programs of monitoring and management that have been or will be adopted. Each of these strategies has been approved by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services (the Minister).
In addressing the quality of air at the airport site, and the release into the air of stratospheric ozone depleting substances, monitoring is required. The monitoring program must be outlined in the Airport Environment Strategy.
Monitoring programs Sydney Airport Corporation Limited (SACL) funds and maintains two air quality monitoring stations, one on the airport site, and one in a neighbouring suburb. In its Airport Environment Strategy, SACL has made commitments to monitor regularly at these stations to ensure compliance with the Schedule 1 limits of the Regulations, as well as monitoring at specific sites on the airport, and during specific activities.
Summaries of this monitoring are provided to the Department's Airport Environment Officer on site at the airport and in the airport's Annual Environment Report to the Department. SACL also passes on results to the NSW Environment Protection Authority to incorporate into the Sydney air monitoring network.
In comparison, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) determines the air quality at the site through testing done by the Department of Environment and Heritage at the nearby Eagle Farm Site. This information is compared to the Schedule 1 limits to determine compliance.
For further information on individual sites, please refer to publicly accessible, Airport Environment Strategies.
Defence, through the Director of Environment and Heritage (DEH), was involved in the development of the NEPM for Ambient Air Quality and, at the time, no particular issues of significance for Defence activities were identified.
As part of the Department's environmental policy implementation, the Department has over the last two financial years, accelerated its site-specific, environmental management plan (EMP) development program. This program will continue through 2001/02. EMPs cover the assessment and monitoring of a wide range of environmental parameters including air quality. Funding has been specifically identified for environmental monitoring purposes during FY 01–02. While still to be finalised, and within the context of necessary security constraints, it is expected that the air quality NEPM obligations will be met.