Contaminated Lands


Susy Cenedese
Strategy Manager 

Phone: 02 9242 4080

NSW councils deal with complex and costly land contamination issues on a regular basis.

What’s more, they’re required to act in various capacities, including:

  • As a pollution regulator under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
  • As a planning authority where re-zoning or development proposals may increase the likelihood of exposure to or release of harmful substances
  • As an owner/operator of land that may be subject to contamination e.g. roads, landfill, depots
  • As a co-regulator with the EPA for contaminated lands, particularly as a repository of information for interested parties e.g. Section 149 Certificates, contaminated land registers etc.

Environmental Planning & Assessment Act

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) provides many of the planning and development controls to prevent and manage land contamination.

State Environmental Planning Policy 55 – Remediation of Land (SEPP 55) requires planning authorities to consider, at the development and re-zoning stage, the potential for contamination to adversely affect the suitability of a site for its proposed use.

The associated Managing Land Contamination: Planning Guidelines provide further advice to planning authorities for managing land contamination through the planning and development control process.

NSW Government has been working on a revision to both SEPP 55 and the Guidelines. View LGNSW’s submission on the proposed amendments.

Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS)

With the introduction of the Protection of the Environment (Operations) Act 1997, councils have been the appropriate regulatory authority for many of the sites where UPSS occur (e.g. service stations).

In 2008, the EPA assumed responsibility for regulating UPSS to lift the standards of design, construction and operation. The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation was introduced largely for the early detection, repair and prevention of leaks.

However, on 1 September 2019 responsibility for regulating UPSS transitioned back to councils.

The EPA retained regulatory responsibility for those UPSS managed and operated by public authorities, plus those in the unincorporated areas of the state, and for UPSS subject to an environment protection licence.

The EPA provided councils with training and resources to assist them regulate UPSS in their local area. This included face-to-face training, on-line training module, handover information, templates, and guidance for councils. An online training resource for council officers is available on the EPA Learning website by searching 'UPSS Capacity Building Online Training Modules'. The EPA is providing continuing support and advice for councils with UPSS issues - contact the EPA's UPSS team on 131 555 or by email at

Regional Capacity Building Program

To assist councils build capacity in the management of contaminated land in NSW, the EPA has provided grants to groups of three or more councils (e.g. ROCs, JOs) to employ regional capacity building officers for up to three years (2018-2021). Ten grants have been awarded to ensure regional and rural councils have contaminated land policies, procedures and registers for managing contaminated land, and to support the successful transition of UPSS regulation from the EPA.