The Victorian Environment Protection Authority has announced it will extend its $6.473 million Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) pilot project until 31 July 2019 to address lower-risk environmental issues, such as dust, odour, waste dumping and stockpiling, stormwater, littering and noise pollution.
In the first nine months of the project's operation, the officers – who started training in September 2017 before beginning with councils earlier this year – responded to 335 incident reports and completed 299 inspections at 236 locations before 30 June 2018 and have already achieved good outcomes for their communities.
In Brimbank and Hobsons Bay the OPLE worked with car wrecking and scrap metal businesses to reduce storm water contamination caused by oil and fuel run off, while the Port Phillip and Loddon OPLEs tackled residents’ noise complaints.
Sediment run-off and littering at new residential developments was a focus for OPLEs in Surf Coast, Wyndham, Shepparton and Wodonga, while waste dumping and stockpiling was a concern in Mildura. Casey OPLEs also helped residents who were plagued by dust from a nearby market garden.
The program gives councils on-the-spot access to EPA capabilities, enabling faster identification and resolution of smaller-scale local pollution and waste issues.
EPA CEO Nial Finegan said the program allowed expertise to be shared between EPA and councils to make a difference to issues that affected local amenity and liveability the most.
“We’ve received great feedback from councils and residents about the impact the OPLEs are having,” he said.
Mr Finegan said the program was identified through the Independent Inquiry into the EPA.