Revised NEPM standards article 20140120151334 Resized WEBRevised NEPM guidelines - act now, don’t wait a year


The long awaited amended National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) has been now been released, boasting a range of changes that will have a two-fold effect for many projects.

There is a 12-month transition period to the new measures – but we think smart businesses won’t wait. They’ll apply the new measures now.

The amended NEPM establishes a nationally-consistent approach to the assessment of site contamination. The original guidelines were developed in 1999.

Key changes include:

  • new asbestos guidance 
  • revised flowchart for site assessment 
  • updated and expanded health investigation levels (HILs) 
  • new assessment framework for volatiles 
  • new health and ecological screening levels for petroleum hydrocarbons 
  • new ecological risk assessment (ERA) methodology and ecological investigation levels (EILs) 
  • updated groundwater investigation levels 

We expect the new guidance to add complexity for the primary users of the amended NEPM including consultants, auditors and regulators. These users are now required to incorporate actual site-specific data rather than rely on ’look up’ tables when preparing contaminated site reports. Whilst this will increase the costs for site investigations, this analysis earlier in the remediation process, may also off-set the need for tier two investigations.

Consultants and auditors in most states and territories have a twelve-month transition period to adopt the amended NEPM. Whilst in this transition period there is no mandate to adopt these changes, Coffey has already begun to apply these guidelines. This will ensure our clients with long-term projects are not caught out and will be compliant when the transition period for the amended guidelines expires and they form the new basis for contamination studies.

What this means for you?

The new guidelines will be more onerous and on some sites may increase the cost of remediation. On the flip side, other sites will benefit from reduced remediation costs. This is due to the required use of site-specific data which may negate the need for additional tier two assessments - meaning less remediation work is required.

We also believe the amended guidelines could greatly improve the value of brownfield sites, as it will cost less to make them useable through the new risk based approach.

How Coffey can help

Our team is ready to help your organisation through these changes. We have three WA Department of Environment Regulation accredited contaminated site auditors available, each with over 30 years experience. We’re also well versed in applying these processes having actively used the asbestos guidelines for the last five years and the petroleum hydrocarbon health screening levels since 2011.

If you have any questions about how this may impact your project, please feel free to contact me on +61 8 9355 7100 or via email at claire.stewart@coffey.com