Consultants and the site auditor scheme
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has prepared this information to help businesses and individuals select a contaminated land consultant in NSW for contaminated site investigations and remediation.
Please note the EPA cannot recommend specific consultants nor auditors.
A contaminated land consultant needs to be selected with care. Contaminated sites typically present a wide range of issues that require a range of technical expertise. There are also considerable social, economic and legal implications if site assessment and remediation do not meet the appropriate environmental and planning requirements and site usage standards. Poor quality contaminated site reports usually result in further work to reach this standard – at an additional cost to the landowner/occupier.
You can save considerable time and money by selecting the consultant who is most appropriate for your needs.
Where to find a consultant
The simplest place to start looking for a contaminated land consultant is the listing under 'Environmental and/or Pollution Consultants' in the Yellow Pages. The list is extensive, but not all of the consultants will have relevant experience or qualifications in contaminated site assessment and remediation.
There are a number of professional associations that may be able to help you by providing contact details for their members. Note that the type(s) of association you contact will depend on the nature of the work you want to commission, and that there are other professional associations not listed below whose members can provide similar professional services. However, the following are a good starting point:
Word of mouth
A word-of-mouth recommendation is often the best guide in selecting a consultant. Contact people or businesses you know who have engaged a contaminated land consultant in the past and ask whether they can make a recommendation.
Call for an expression of interest
You can find a consultant by calling for expressions of interest or quotations through an advertisement in one of the major newspapers. This is a suitable approach if you already know the scope of the job, but it's likely to require some effort in assessing the quotations and competence of consultants who respond.
What to look for in a contaminated land consultant
Contaminated site investigation and remediation can require a wide variety of skills from a range of experts, depending upon the complexity of the site and the contamination issues associated with it. The consultant you choose should be able to satisfy the following criteria:
- experience in contaminated land assessment and management
- familiarity with relevant NSW legislation and guidelines, planning and development control processes and local council regulations
- appropriate insurance cover
- documented procedures for completing a project, including a quality control and quality assurance program
- assignment of appropriately qualified and experienced people to your job - Details about technical skills required for contaminated site work can be found in Guideline (10) on Competencies and Acceptance of Environmental Auditors and Related Professionals of the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999
- a professional and ethical reputation
- proven ability to complete projects on budget and on schedule
- a well-organised network of contacts to provide expert opinion when necessary
- excellent communication skills.
Selecting your consultant
The next step is to make a short list of potential contaminated land consultants and invite them to provide a quotation on the project. Only short-list consultants who appear to have the necessary capacities and qualifications. In general terms, try to identify at least three candidates for further consideration.
Before asking candidates for a quote, gather as much information as you can about the property in question, including the history of operations at the site, potential sources of contamination and any company records about where and how chemicals and wastes have been used or stored. Providing the consultants with detailed information up front will enable them to be more accurate in their quotes, which can save you time and money.
If you know what work you need the consultant to do and can develop a list of the services you require (usually called the 'scope of works'), the task of selecting a consultant will be that much easier. If you're not sure what's required, the EPA's Guidelines for consultants reporting on contaminated sites (20110650consultantsglines.pdf; 428KB) provide a broad description of the key steps of contaminated site assessment and remediation and the works involved in each step.
Ask for the following to be included in each quote:
- the consultant's understanding of the project and a summary of how they propose to undertake the work, including a discussion of any proposed sampling plans and laboratory analytical programs
- the proposed project team, their qualifications and experience, and the consultant's main contact for the project (typically called the 'Project Manager')
- the consultant's experience working on similar projects (including project summaries and, if possible, contact details and references for their clients)
- details of the consultancy's health and safety procedures and any other relevant qualifications specific to the intended work (for example railway track work training or confined space training, etc.)
- whether the consultancy has an accredited quality system (ISO 9000 or equivalent)
- that the consultancy is familiar with all relevant NSW legislation (both environmental and planning) plus all guidelines written or endorsed by the EPA
- details and qualifications of all sub-contractors the consultant intends to use and what part of the project they will be used for
- a breakdown of your costs and whether the work is to be performed on a fixed total cost or a fees and expenses basis and a schedule of rates for any additional work that needs to be undertaken above and beyond the original scope of the project
- details of the timing of all phases of the project and a date for the provision of the final report
- the current insurance details of the consultant (including professional indemnity and public liability).
It might also be appropriate to ask the consultants whether they would have any conflict of interest in undertaking the work and whether they will have qualified staff available at the time you want the job done.
When assessing the consultants' proposals, determine whether:
- they understand the scope of work required
- they have included sufficient details on how they meet your requirements
- they have provided reasonable cost and work schedules.
Before choosing a consultant, check the references provided with their quotation. You can obtain valuable information about the standard of their work and their ability to communicate, stay on schedule and keep costs to a minimum by talking to companies they have previously worked for.
Engaging your contaminated land consultant
Once you have selected a consultant, you'll need a contract that sets out the services they will be providing. The contract should include conditions about the scope and nature of the work, the frequency of progress reports, indemnities, limits on liability and insurance, information flow, document ownership and retention procedures, and methods of costing. Consultants may attach a standard contract to their proposal, but they will usually be prepared to negotiate a mutually suitable agreement. If you are not familiar with contracts, ask your solicitor for advice first.
Before you sign the contract, ensure that the consultant still intends to use the same project team they nominated in their quote, particularly if some time has passed since it was submitted.
Engaging a site auditor
Site auditors are highly experienced contaminated land consultants accredited by the EPA under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997, in order to improve access to competent technical advice and increase certainty in the 'sign-off' of contaminated site assessments and remediation. You can engage a site auditor to independently review a consultant's reports on assessment, remediation and validation work to ensure that the consultant's methodology and interpretation of data are consistent with current EPA-endorsed regulations and guidelines.
Further information about the site auditor scheme.
The Office of Environment and Heritage has prepared this information in good faith exercising all due care and attention, but no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the relevance, accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of this information in respect of any particular user's circumstances. Users of this information should satisfy themselves concerning its application to, and where necessary seek expert advice in respect of, their situation.
For any queries, please contact Environment Line: phone 131 555
Updated June 2012
Page last updated: 12 July 2012