2212ENV Ecotox and Impact Assessment
Incidents happen. Sometimes, they pollute and damage the environment. A chemical storage tank will rupture, releasing its content via a stormwater drain to a nearby creek. An oil tanker will flip over the side of a highway, polluting a nearby wetland. A lightning strike will start a fire at a factory, releasing noxious fumes into the atmosphere. A Pollution Incident Response Management Plan (PIRMP) is a document that helps a business prepare for the worst. It identifies the risks associated with a specific business activity (such as a factory, a dangerous goods storage site, a farm, an electric substation …) and outlines procedures to follow in case of an incident to minimise the resulting environmental harm. After a brilliant stint with the Department of Environment and Science (people still talk about that report you did on Chemical X!),
you have decided to take up a position as Environmental Compliance Office (ECO) at a company in the business of [insert your selected business activity*] and located in [insert your selected location**]. One of your tasks is to prepare the PIRMP to ensure that the company is prepared, should the worst happen. The task For your final task in Ecotox and Impact Assessment, you will produce a Pollution Incident Response Management Plan (PIRMP) using the excellent template put together by the NSW EPA (which you can download here here – Alternative Formats ), using: the accompanying guidance manual (available here here – Alternative Formats ) by the NSW EPA, what we’ve learned about different kinds of chemicals and their toxic effects on organisms, communities and ecosystems in weeks 7 & 8, what we’ve learned about preventing and managing pollution in week 9, the risk assessment frameworks we learned in week 5, and a little bit of imagination.
Now that last part, the imagination component, is because YOU decide what the company does (called “business activity”), and where it is located. You will even pick the company name, and draw a schematic of the site. How to pick the business activity You can pick any business activity, as long as they use chemicals. It could be a business activity that you have a particular interest in. For example, you are interested in aquaculture, and you could pick that. Or you love beer, and you could pick a brewery. Of you drive past a pesticide plant on your daily commute, and you want to find out a bit more about it.
If you are low on inspiration, you could pick any of the following: Food production: aquaculture, animal farm, plantation, food processing Chemical production: petroleum, fertiliser, pharmaceuticals, pesticides Manufacturing: construction, metal, semi-conductors, textiles Infrastructure: water treatment, hospital, waste storage, power generation Mining: ore, gas, oil You will basically need to do some research and learn about the kinds of activities and chemicals they use in that business, in what quantities, how they are stored, etc so you can complete the information required in the PIRMP template.
Google will be your friend for this task. Something that may help you if you need a bit of a boost is the Flash Environmental Assessment Tool (FEAT) developed by the UN Office for Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA). FEAT “helps to identify existing or potential acute environmental impacts that pose risks for humans, human life-support functions and ecosystems, following sudden-onset natural disasters”. As such, it is a good starting point to better understand the risks associated with different business activities. You can find download that template here , as well as on the FEAT website of course.
How to pick the location (**)? You can pick a location almost anywhere on a world map. The only two requirements are that: Your location MUST be close to a residential area. No picking something in an uninhabited part of central Australia for example! There needs to be a potential risk to human neighbours. Your location MUST be near water, such as a river, a lake, any type of wetland really, or the ocean. No placing it in a barren place where nothing lives.
There needs to be a potential risk to a nearby ecosystem. Other than those two requirements, you’re free to go nuts! You will probably want to pick someplace with good satellite imagery, so you can zoom, maybe do a Google Streetview, to see what the area looks like. There may be a slight advantage in selecting somewhere in Queensland, as I will demonstrate a very powerful GIS tool called Queensland Globe during the second half of the course. But you have a free hand here, and can pick anywhere you like (as long as it meets requirements 1 and 2 above).
This could be a fun way to “visit” a new place and find out a bit more about it. Seeing how we can’t travel due to COVID, you could at least visit new places virtually! If you are low on inspiration, think about a place you know – perhaps something on your daily commute, or a place you’ve visited before. Additional information and advice for specific sections of the PIRMP template There are a few fields in the report that you do not need to respond to: At the top, where it asks for a “License number”: you can leave this blank, and enter a random number.
In the section entitled “Environment Protection Licence (EPL) Details”, you can leave the following fields blank: ABN EPL number Scheduled activities on EPL Fee-based activities on EPL In the section entitled “Notification of relevant authorities”, the section is obviously very NSW flavoured. If you want to go the extra mile, you can identify the
a) emergency service,
b) environmental protection authority,
c) health department, and
d) work health and safety authority that are relevant to your chosen location. But you don’t have to, and can leave this section blank. Please make sure you complete all other fields of the template.
You will be marked on Each section will be worth a certain percentage of the overall report, as follows: First page, EPL details, person responsible, relevant authorities: Notification of neighbours: Description and likelihood of hazards:Pre-emptive actions: Inventory of pollutants.
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