Contaminated land

In general terms contaminated land refers to land contaminated by hazardous substances (such as pesticides, heavy metals or hydrocarbons) which may pose a risk to human health and/or the environment.

Land in the Tweed is used for a variety of purposes which can cause the land to become contaminated. Historically, industrial activities, agricultural activities and commercial activities all have the potential to contaminate land.

Under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulates contaminated sites that pose a significant risk of harm to human health or the environment.

Contaminated sites that are not regulated by NSW EPA are managed by local councils through land use planning processes.

State Environmental Planning Policy (Resilience and Hazards) 2021 requires Council to consider whether land is contaminated and for applicants to provide information about contamination in respect to their proposed development. This information is often provided as part of the Statement of Environmental Effects or by the provision of specific contaminated land reports.

The applicant is required to address issues such as previous and current land uses and activities on the site and adjoining sites as well as any known contamination of the land and details of any contamination investigation reports or remediation works that have occurred on the land.

Changes from 1 July 2020

Note that all contaminated land reports submitted for Council review as of 1 July 2020 must be accompanied by a Contaminated Land Summary Table to ensure that key mandatory information is incorporated into consultant's reports.

NRCLP Summary Report Template Table(DOCX, 55KB)

Contaminated Land Policy

Council has developed a Policy in respect to Land Contamination which is currently under review. For further information contact Council's Building and Environmental Health Unit on 02 6670 2400.

Northern Rivers Contaminated Land Program

Tweed Shire Council is a member of the Northern Rivers Contaminated Land Program funded by the NSW EPA's Council Regional Capacity Building Program.

The program provides a regional focus on contamination and potentially contaminating activities within the Tweed, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, and Richmond Valley local government areas.

For further information on the program, contact Council's Environmental Health team on 02 6670 2400.

Fuel Tanks / Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS)

Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) include tanks, pipes, valves and other equipment that is designed to store fuel beneath the ground. Typically found in sites such as service stations, mechanic workshops, depots, marinas, car dealerships and airports, they are considered a high-risk environmental activity which can leak and contaminate surrounding land and groundwater, creating risks to human health and the environment.

UPSS Regulations

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage System) Regulation 2019 aims to minimise the risk to human health and the environment by requiring best practice design, installation, maintenance and monitoring of UPSS in NSW.

UPSS must be constructed, operated and maintained to prevent fuel leaks, however owners and operators must closely monitor for leaks so that they are detected and fixed early, minimising contamination.

The updated regulation includes:

  • Changes to definitions to clarify the requirements for UPSS operators;
  • Closer alignment with Australian Standard AS4897-2008 The Design, Installation and Operation of Underground Petroleum Storage Systems;
  • Amendments to record keeping – Fuel System Operation Plans; and
  • A requirement to advise local councils in advance of any decommissioning or modification works associated with a UPSS.

Register Your System

The person responsible for a UPSS is the person who has 'management and control' of the system.

The person responsible must register the UPSS with Council and have procedures and systems in place to detect and fix any fuel leaks as early as possible. These must be documented in a Fuel System Operation Plan for the site.

Please complete the Application for Registration of Underground Petroleum Storage Systems to register your UPSS or to advise of any changes.

Reporting Pollution

Occupiers of a premises must immediately report a pollution incident to Council where a leak or spill is causing or is likely to cause harm to the environment or human health.

Where a leak or spill from UPSS is detected, complete the Leak Notification Form(PDF, 145KB) and email to Council's Environmental Health Officers at, 02 6670 2400.

Further information

Waste (including fill and spoil)

Clean fill, spoil, dirt, soil, sand and gravel are commonly used to describe material on a site. When that material leaves a site, it is considered waste.

NSW EPA and Council regularly receive reports of waste (fill) being delivered to unsuspecting property owners with promises that it is clean and harmless, only to find that it is contaminated with building and demolition waste, general rubbish, chemicals, heavy metals or even asbestos.

Waste can only be taken to, and accepted at, a waste facility which is lawfully authorised to receive, re-use and/or dispose of that classification or type of waste. To help waste generators classify the wastes they produce, NSW EPA has developed Waste Classification Guidelines.

Reuse Options

As waste classification does not assess the suitability of waste material for application to land, NSW EPA have developed Resource Recovery Orders and Resource Recovery Exemptions to allow some wastes to be beneficially and safely re-used independent of the usual NSW laws that control applying waste to land. The waste must be genuine, fit-for-purpose, and cause no harm to the environment or human health.

Virgin Natural Excavated Material (VENM) is natural material (such as clay, gravel, sand, soil or rock fines) that has been excavated or quarried from areas that are not contaminated with manufactured chemicals, or with process residues as a result of industrial, commercial, mining or agricultural activities, and does not contain any sulfidic ores or soils or any other waste.

Generators of VENM must complete the NSW EPA VENM Certificate to receivers.

Where an excavated material cannot be classified as VENM, it may be eligible for reuse under the excavated natural material order and exemption.

Resource Recovery Orders (for generators and processors of the waste material)

Resource recovery orders include conditions which generators and processors of waste must meet to supply the waste material for the purposes described above. These conditions may include material specifications, processing specifications, record-keeping, reporting and other requirements. All resource recovery orders are made under clause 93 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014.

Resource Recovery Exemptions (for receivers of the waste material)

Resource recovery exemptions contain the conditions which receivers must meet to use waste for the purposes described above. These conditions may include requirements on how to re-use or apply the waste, as well as record-keeping, reporting and other requirements. All resource recovery exemptions are made under clauses 91 and 92 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014.

Transporting Waste

A Section 143 notice should accompany all material transported to locations other than a licensed landfill to demonstrate that responsibility for the material has lawfully been transferred from the generator, via the transporter to the receiver.

Development Consent

Resource recovery orders and exemptions do not release you from the relevant planning consent requirements. If you wish to use an order or exemption, it is your responsibility to seek any necessary development consents from Council.

Any virgin excavated natural material or waste-derived fill material subject to a resource recovery exemption must be accompanied by documentation as to the material's compliance and must be provided to Council on request. Applicants should engage a suitably qualified environmental consultant to prepare a Resource Recovery Order/Exemption. For more information, visit How to get Development, Building and Environmental Health Advice.


Various land parcels within the Tweed Shire have been the subject of historical sand mining activities. These activities may have led to the concentration of naturally occurring radioactive materials in some areas. In these instances investigation and possibly remediation is required before the land can be subdivided or developed.

The land owner must engage a specialist environmental consultant to investigate the site (generally surface and depth levels). Where radiation levels exceed relevant criteria, the land shall be remediated (generally involving a process of mixing sand/soil materials until radiation levels are within relevant limits) and validated prior to development.

Council may require any site assessment, remediation action plan and site validation to be reviewed by a NSW EPA accredited site auditor. Any person who wishes to develop land which may have been the subject of sand mining will need to consider this issue.

Radiation from heavy mineral sands residues factsheet (Northern Rivers Contaminated Land Program)(PDF, 3MB)

Radiation Protection Series No. 15 (RPS 15)

Radiation Protection Series No. 15 Safety Guide - Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) (RPS 15) published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (2008) assists regulators and property owners to manage Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) and assess the need for radiation protection measures, while providing advice on the type of radiation protection measures that may be required, including regulation.

Any soil to be removed from a site with identified naturally occurring radioactive material must be classified in accordance with Waste Classification Guidelines Part 3: Waste containing radioactive material Hazardous Material (NSW EPA, 2014).

Historical pesticide application during construction

To provide a chemical barrier to termites, organochlorine pesticides were applied extensively within the Tweed Shire beneath structures such as dwellings (predominantly beneath concrete slabs) from pre 1960s until the use of such pesticides was banned around July 1995.

Organochlorine pesticides are known to persist in the environment and may remain in the soil material beneath these structures. Exposure to high levels of organochlorine pesticides may lead to serious health concerns in humans and may pose an issue when considering applications for the demolition of structures.

Where removal of these structures are proposed, Council must consider the requirements of State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 55 – Remediation of Land and Council's Pre-Demolition Testing Guidelines(PDF, 89KB).

For further information visit Structure Relocation/Demolition.