November Policy Update

Guidance material to support implement of General Environmental Duty (GED) under the EP Act

Since the last update, the consultants have produced draft process flow charts for the reporting of sewer spills and contaminated land under GED, and these were considered at a workshop with the related Working Group that was held on Friday 22 October 2021.  A range of valuable feedback was provided by Working Group members, and the consultants are reworking the draft guidance on the basis of this feedback.

The draft process flow charts have also been sent to EPA for their review/comment.

Depending on how long it takes to receive feedback from EPA, the timeline to complete the project may push into early December 2021.

You can read about the project background here.


Practical guidance documents to support the implementation of EPA revised guideline for water recycling

Due to the current limited availability of the chosen consultants, minimal progress has been made on this project.  The first workshop will now hopefully occur in late November 2021.

You can read background on the project here.


Planning Codes for Sustainable Animal Industries

Individual water corporations have provided DJPR with their feedback on the draft Planning Codes, with the aim that the finalised codes will strike the right balance between the protection of raw water sources that form part of drinking water supply and intensive animal developments that support economic activity.

You can read about the project background here.


Practical Guidance Documents

Since the last update, the direction of the project has changed a bit, and a Request for Quotation (RFQ) for a suitably qualified consultant to undertake the project is being drafted.  The content of a proposed Request for Quotation to undertake this project was drafted and tabled at the 12 October 2021 meeting of VicWater’s Policy and Advisory Committee.  The Committee’s feedback is being incorporated into RFQ, which should be finalised in early November 2021.

You can read background on the project here.


DELWP Water Corporation Procurement Review - Issues Paper

In September 2021, DELWP sent to water corporations and VicWater the Water Corporation Procurement Review - Issues Paper.  The preparation of the Issues Paper was overseen by a Reference Group, which comprised of the Deputy Secretary of DELWP Water and Catchments Group (Chair), along with representatives from VicWater, Industrial Relations Victoria, the Department of Treasury and Finance, DELWP Legal and Governance and an appointed Independent Reviewer.

The Reference Group established the criteria for the review, which were set to reflect priorities and concerns that had been identified as relevant to the success of services sourcing strategies and procurement in the Victorian water sector.  The criteria covered a broad range of issues, and could be grouped into three broad categories:

  • ensuring water corporations can sustainably access skills
  • ensuring their expenditure is prudent and efficient, and in the long-term interests of customers
  • ensuring water corporations support employment diversity and quality, and social and economic development objectives.

Comments on the Issues Paper were due to DELWP by Friday 15 October 2021.

In consultation with procurement staff from a number of members, VicWater prepared a submission in response to the Issues Paper, which has been submitted to DELWP.  A copy of the submission is available upon request.


Proposed changes to the Workplace Exposure Standards for Hydrogen Sulfide

In February 2021, Safe Work Australia (SWA) released details of changes that they recommending be made to the Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) for Hydrogen Sulfide.  In summary, the changes are:

  • Eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) for hydrogen sulfide to decrease from 10ppm to 1ppm
  • Short term exposure level (STEL) for hydrogen sulfide to decrease from 15ppm to 5ppm

Whilst SWA did go through a stakeholder consultation process, the Australian water industry was not directly consulted, nor advised that the consultation was taking place, despite the water industry being an industry where significant workplace exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide can occur.

It is recognised that water corporations take the matter of workplace exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide very seriously, but there are member concerns that these changes are not based on sound science and have significant cost implications for the water industry, which are fully understood or appreciated by SWA.

Whilst SWA have adopted these WES for Hydrogen Sulfide, they have yet to be ratified by state and territory workplace safety regulators.  This may occur as early as mid-December 2021.

Since being made aware of this issue, VicWater has been working with WSAA, and both VicWater and WSAA members, to come up with a coordinated approach to relevant regulatory agencies, with the aim being to delay the ratification and/or implementation of the proposed changes, until such time that detailed engagement and consultation has been had with the water industry on the changes.