SEPP 55 – Expect the unexpected

When undertaking SEPP 55 Contamination Assessments you never know exactly what you may find when you attend a site.  Many of our long term clients such as Land Developers understand the process and risks very well however to clients not familiar with the process it can be somewhat confusing why their Council is requesting a report for Contamination for their Development Application.

The reason for a request from council for a SEPP 55 contamination assessment, also called a Preliminary Site Investigation or Stage 1 Contamination Assessment is to determine if the site has the potential to be Contaminated.

Contamination can be as a result of past land use practices such as; orchards, mechanical workshops, petrol stations, market gardens, illegal dumping, certain manufacturing, dry cleaners and even home based businesses to name but a few. The contamination source can be from undertaking a Potentially Contaminating Activity on the site by a previous owner decades in the past and there may be no obvious evidence of contamination being present. Sometimes a source of contamination can be from adjoining sites whereby their activities may contaminate their neighbours.

The reason Councils often request such assessments be undertaken is to ensure that a site is safe for its intended use. The most obvious example to provide here is a proposed Child Care Centre. As young children will often come into contact with soil it is important to ensure there is no soil contamination from items such as heavy metals, asbestos, pesticides or other contaminants.

Below is an example of an obvious item of potential concern being dumped drums and other associated debris from machinery servicing. Activities such as these can result in contamination of surrounding soil. When purchasing a property or developing or changing a properties use it is important to consider former uses which may have resulted in contamination to the soil or ground water.


A more extreme example is provided below of a bore hole near to a workshop at an older Petrol Station where we recently undertook a Stage 2 Detailed Site Investigation. This shows heavy oil contamination within 1 metre of the surface. Whilst it is not unusual to find contamination at former Service Station Sites the level of contamination encountered was unusual.


By requesting a Contamination Report council is aiming to identify any risks early to protect people and property.

Hopefully this provides some background and understanding as to why Council may have requested a SEPP55 report as part of your development application.

Please give us a call to discuss your specific application and order your assessment.