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DEPWS: Wastewater regulation during the wet season

29 Feb 2024 10:50 AM | Stephanie Berlin (Administrator)

The Petroleum Operations unit is committed to providing clear information on how the onshore petroleum industry in the Northern Territory is regulated during the wet season.

To keep Territorians informed, we have published a regulatory statement to provide clarity on what we expect and what we're doing. We expect compliance and will act when we don't see it.

In response to the Hydraulic Fracking Inquiry recommendations, several mandatory requirements were developed for managing wastewater on a petroleum well site. These requirements are outlined in the Code of Practice and in the Compliance Plan 2023 – 2024.

These include measures such as

  • ensuring containment of wastewater in enclosed tanks before any significant rainfall event
  • testing wastewater so we know the environmental impact and appropriate disposal methods
  • it also includes limiting wastewater being transported on unsealed roads in the wet season.

These are just some of the mandatory requirements and there might also be additional controls in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). If these aren’t complied with, then penalties can apply.

The Environmental Regulation Branch has established criteria for various levels of impacts and culpabilities to inform our regulatory response, including

  • the seriousness of the contravention
  • the actual or potential for environmental impact
  • the culpability of the interest holder.

All sites where a regulated activity is actively being undertaken have been inspected, in some instances with other Northern Territory Government agencies. At the start of the 2023 ‐ 2024 wet season, the Petroleum Operations unit undertook wet season preparedness inspections of 100% of onshore petroleum well sites in the Beetaloo Sub‐basin that have wastewater from drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing present.

Any compliance and enforcement action that regulators take to ensure compliance is published at the end of the financial year. Reports on wastewater management and data provided in accordance with the regulations is made public through the Petroleum Onshore Information NT portal.

Regulating wastewater from petroleum operation sites during the wet season is our focus, and something we know Territorians care about. We take environmental regulation seriously.

This article was initially published in the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security monthly newsletter "Finding the Balance".

Source: Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security newsroom

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