In April 2019, the Queensland Government introduced new laws that give the chief executive of Queensland Health the power to direct a person, or an entity such as a business, to issue a pollution notice in response to a pollution event. The purpose of these provisions is to help ensure members of the public are informed of pollution events that could affect their health, in a timely manner, and the measures they should take to protect their health.
What is a pollution notice?
A pollution notice is a notice that describes the nature of a pollution event, the area affected by the pollution event, and the actions members of the public should take to protect their health. The chief executive of Queensland Health may direct the polluter to include extra information in the pollution notice, if he/she considers it appropriate.
What type of pollution events do these new laws apply to?
These new laws apply to pollution events that may affect the health of the general public. An example of a pollution event would be where a person is responsible for the release of a dangerous chemical into a waterway that could adversely affect the health of people who fish or recreate downstream of that waterway.
Where will pollution notices be published?
The new laws allow the chief executive of Queensland Health to specify how a pollution notice is to be published. For example, whether the notice is published in a local newspaper, on local radio or via a sign at a particular location. This power will help ensure the community affected is informed in the most appropriate way.
Where it is not possible to determine who is responsible for a pollution event, Queensland Health will issue a media release stating that a pollution event has occurred, the affected area and the steps members of the public should take to protect their health. A pollution notice will also be published on the Queensland Health website.
How can I report a pollution event?
If you observe a pollution incident, you are encouraged to report it to the relevant administering authority. If you have caused a pollution incident, you may be legally required to report it to the relevant administering authority. View further details on reporting pollution incidents.
If you or your business have been directed to issue a pollution notice, you are legally required to comply with the direction, unless you have a reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty for not complying with a direction to issue a pollution notice is 200 penalty units (equivalent to $26,690 as of 1 July 2019).
These new laws commenced on 11 April 2019 and the relevant powers have been delegated to Queensland’s Chief Health Officer. Further information on these provisions can be obtained by contacting Queensland Health’s Health Protection Branch at email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 3328 9310.