Goldfields Sulfur Dioxide EPP Discussion Paper

Release date: 
08 December 2009

The Environmental Protection Authority has released a discussion paper on the Environmental Protection Policy (EPP) that controls the level of sulfur dioxide in the air in residential areas of the Goldfields. (Environmental Protection (Goldfields Residential Areas)(Sulfur Dioxide) Policy 2003).

Sulfur dioxide is a colourless, pungent, irritating gas that is readily absorbed in the upper respiratory system and, at high concentrations, causes acute broncho-constriction and related effects.

In the 1980s mining and ore processing operations in the Goldfields were causing very high concentrations of sulfur dioxide, and in 1988 the EPA initiated an EPP.

Environmental Protection Authority General Manager, Michelle Andrews, said that monitoring of the ambient air quality in the Goldfields residential areas since the EPP came into force has shown an overall reduction in the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the air to levels well within national guidelines.

“This has been due to the efforts of industry, the community and local government working together to fix this problem,” she said.

EPPs have the force of law. It is important that they are reviewed regularly and are responsive to changes in environmental standards, industry best practice and other laws and regulations. An EPP can apply to a specific area, specify environmental objectives; set out indicators to be monitored; and establish a programme for achieving the environmental objectives.

The Discussion Paper provides an overview of the performance of the Goldfields Sulfur Dioxide EPP and reviews the sulfur dioxide monitoring results. It also identifies some issues and poses some questions for consideration. For instance:

Should industry continue to monitor the SO2 ambient concentrations in the Goldfields? Is the current monitoring programme adequate? Should more sites be monitored?

Can you suggest any areas that are not currently protected by the EPP, which in your opinion should be and why?

Should industry have a limit on the amount of emissions that they can emit in addition to the current controls that protect the residential areas?

What should the goal or the objective be for the Goldfields EPP? Should the objective be broadened to further improve the air quality in the Goldfields region?

What would you think if the EPP was removed and another government instrument (e.g. Industry Licensing) was used to protect the Goldfields airshed?

In conjunction with stakeholder forums, comments received on the discussion paper will be analysed and considered by the EPA in its review of the Goldfields EPP. If appropriate, a new draft policy will be prepared, and will be made available for further comment.

The discussion paper can be obtained from the homepage of the EPA website www.epa.wa.gov.au, the Department of Environment and Conservation Office, 32 Brookman Street, Kalgoorlie, and the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority, 4th Floor, 168 St Georges Terrace, Perth.

The new Department, Office of the Environmental Protection Authority, commenced operations on 27th November. The EPA remains the principal source of independent environmental advice to Government on development proposals and policy matters that affect the environment. The Government has strengthened the independence of the EPA by establishing the new department dedicated to the EPA.

EPA Media contact: Charlie Maling, 6467 5415, 0400 866 450