Environmental impact statements
Environmental impact statements (EISs) are the primary tool used within Queensland legislation to allow the state government to assess the effect that a proposed development has on the surrounding environment.
Developers or companies (referred to as proponents) planning these significant projects are required to submit an environmental impact statement to the relevant government agency. The EIS should:
- identify aspects of a project that may impact on human health and wellbeing
- provide strategies and commitments to minimise health risks.
Some of the types of impacts that may affect human health and well-being that should be considered when preparing an EIS are outlined below.
- Air quality
- Noise emissions
- Water quality
- Radiation safety
- Land management
- Community health and wellbeing
This list is not exhaustive, and other aspects may need to be considered depending on the nature of the project.
Air contaminants have the potential to cause a risk to public health if not managed properly. An EIS should demonstrate that the proposed project would operate in a way that adequately protects the air environment by identifying and managing air contaminants that may pose an unacceptable risk to human health and wellbeing.
A proponent is usually required to predict the project's emissions and compare them to the goals contained within
- Environmental Protection Policy (Air) 2008
- National Environmental Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure 2003 (Cwlth) (NEPM AAQ)
- other appropriate guidelines.
Proponents should be aware that noise emissions may cause adverse impacts on human health and wellbeing. An EIS should describe:
- potential noise impacts
- proposed mitigation measures
- monitoring programs (when required) that demonstrate compliance with the relevant human health and wellbeing goals within the Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2008.
The proponent should discuss the impact the project may have on water bodies/sources. The EIS should consider and describe effects on:
- drinking water
- non-drinking water—recycled water or alternate non-drinking water supplies
- wastewater disposal/sanitation
- environmental water—release of contaminants to receiving waters.
The quality requirements of these waters vary greatly, however the proponent should identify within the EIS the appropriate standards and management methods used to minimise any risk to human health and wellbeing.
Many projects have the potential to generate a radiation hazard. Examples include projects that involve:
- mining and mineral processing, including oil and gas
- electricity generation including any impact from transmission power lines
- bauxite/aluminium industries
- phosphate industries such as fertilizer manufacturing
An EIS for such proposals should identify:
- any licence requirements under the Radiation Safety Act 1999
- compliance with the applicable codes of practice and standards that are available from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
An EIS should discuss the impact the project may have on human health and wellbeing with respect to contaminated sites/structures, waste management, and vector and pest management.
Many projects may adversely affect soil or require the decontamination of lands. In situations where contamination has the potential to affect human health, an assessment following the guidelines outlined by the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure should be undertaken.
If the project involves the removal of a structure on the site, it is important to appropriately deal with any potentially hazardous material such as asbestos.
A proponent should consider:
- waste streams
- appropriate disposal practices
- the capacity of local landfill sites and other waste facilities.
Unsafe waste management practices have the potential to adversely affect human health and cause a public health risk (as defined within the Public Health Act 2005).
Vector and pest management
Many project proposals are likely to attract or be affected by a range of pest species such as mosquitos, rodents and feral animals. The Public Health Act 2005 requires the public health risk associated with designated pests to be mitigated. This protects the surrounding community as well as workers on-site.
Community health and wellbeing
Many projects have the potential to significantly increase the population of a community over a short period. This can cause undue stress on existing services. A proponent should consider the direct and indirect health impacts of increasing the population, particularly in remote or regional areas.
Proponents should consider how to:
- minimise the risk of communicable diseases
- provide appropriate accommodation/camp and food preparation facilities
- respond during a medical emergency (ie through development of an emergency medical response plan)
- minimise the impact on local health services
- minimise the impact on the existing social structures of nearby communities.
Health risk assessment
If a hazard that does have the potential to cause a serious public health risk is identified while planning the project (or during a project) contact the local public health unit and they will decide if you need to undertake a health risk assessment.
Any health risk assessment must be conducted in accordance with the EnHealth Environmental Health Risk Assessment—Guidelines for assessing human health risks from environmental hazards.
For more detailed information, please refer to the health consideration guidelines for environmental impact assessments (PDF 468kB).
Contact your local public health unit for advice on preparing environmental impact assessments.
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