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Contaminated Land

Schedule 4 of the Environmental Protection Act defines “ Contaminated land” as being land contaminated by a hazardous substance that may pose a risk to human health or the environment. For example, arsenic, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) or oil. Contamination could have occurred for a number of reasons, including accidental spills, poor waste disposal practices or poor environmental management practices in industrial or commercial activities.  These incidents are generally historical and where mainly due to practices that weren’t deemed as dangerous at the time.

Contaminated land is managed in Queensland under a range of documents including the:

  • Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act)
  • National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (ASC NEPM 1999) (NEPC 1999a). It should be noted that at the time of publication of this guideline, the ASC NEPM 1999 was under review. The current published version of the ASC NEPM (or equivalent) should be used in all situations
  • Guidelines for the Assessment of On-Site Containment of Contaminated Soil (National Containment Guidelines) (ANZECC 1999)
  • Health Screening Levels for Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Soil and Groundwater (CRC CARE Health Screening Levels) (Friebel and Nadebaum 2011)
  • Canada-wide standard for petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC) in soil (CCME 2008)
  • Guidelines for the Assessment, Remediation and Management of Asbestos-Contaminated Sites in Western Australia (WA Asbestos Guidelines) (DoH and DEC 2009).
  • Land development and development approvals in Queensland are coordinated under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) by an assessment manager (usually the relevant local government) with referral agencies assessing applications against the requirements of legislation and planning schemes.

Who is responsible for contaminated land?

The Department of Environment & Heritage Protection (DEHP) keeps two important registers which keep all lands that have in accordance with the legislation been deemed as Contaminated Land.  These two registers are the Environmental Management Register and the Contaminated Land Register.

Environmental Management Register

The Environmental Management Register (EMR) is a land use planning and management register. Land that has been or is being used for a notifiable activity is recorded on the EMR by the QLD Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

  • The EMR provides information on current and historical land use, including whether the land has been or is currently used for a notifiable activity, or has been contaminated by a hazardous contaminant.
  • These sites are considered 'low risk' to human health or the environment under the current land use.
  • Entry on the EMR does not mean that the land must be cleaned up or that the current land use must cease.

However, it is possible that they may pose a risk to human health and/or the environment if the land use of these sites were to change. Hence, the appropriate investigation and, if necessary, remediation will be required to be undertaken before any change in land use takes place.

Contaminated Land Register

The Contaminated Land Register (CLR) is a register of proven contaminated land (considered 'risk sites'), that is causing or may cause serious environmental harm.

  • Land is recorded on the CLR when a scientific investigation shows that the land is contaminated and action needs to be taken to remediate or manage the land to prevent serious environmental harm or adverse public health risks.
  • Actions could include:
    • technical measures to prevent the migration of contaminants
    • full removal of contaminants and off-site treatment to prevent serious or material environmental harm or public health risks.

QLD Contaminated Land Search

You can request through the Department of Environment & Heritage Protection (DEHP) for a contaminated land search.

If my property is on the EMR

If your property is listed on the EMR or CLR, to be removed from the EMR, or to be permitted to develop or change the land use of the property, a site investigation may need to be undertaken.

Depending on the results of the site investigation a site management plan or remediation of the land may also be required to change the land use.

Entry on the EMR does not mean the land must be remediated or that the current land use must stop

For more information regarding Contaminated Land and what it means if your land is on a register, visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Further Information

Contact Queensland Government on phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.