National Priority Sites - FAQ's

The EPA has developed a system to rank industrial and waste licensed sites in order of priority for enforcement. The National Priority Sites List will be used to target our enforcement effort at the poorest performing sites in order to drive improvements in environmental compliance.

A score is assigned to each facility based on enforcement factors such as complaints, incidents, compliance investigations (CIs), and non-compliances (NCs) with the licence. 

Details about the system and how the scores are allocated are explained through our frequently asked questions below.

What is the National Priority Sites System?

The National Priority Sites system allows the EPA to identify which industrial and waste licensed sites should be prioritised for enforcement based on their environmental performance.

The list is used to target the EPA’s enforcement effort at the poorest performing sites in order to drive improvements in environmental compliance.

To which sites does the National Priority Sites System apply?

The system applies to active EPA licensed industrial and waste sites only.

The system does not apply to the following EPA regulated activities:

  • Industries that have ceased their licensed activities
  • Urban wastewater treatment plants (Note 1)
  • Drinking water treatment plants (Note 2)
  • Sites that have a Radiological Protection permit
  • Dumping at Sea permits

Note 1 – The EPA publishes the Wastewater Priorities for urban waste water treatment plants.

Note 2 - The EPA publishes a “Remedial Action List” for all public drinking water treatment plants.  

There are over 700 sites to which the National Priority Sites System is applied currently.  Search the full list of EPA licensed activities.

How does the National Priority Sites System work?

In simple terms, each site is given a score based on its licence compliance in the previous six months. The system has four key scoring components: Compliance Investigations, Complaints, Incidents and Non-Compliances.  These are described in more detail below.  The higher the score the poorer the compliance is at a site.

  • Compliance Investigations

A Compliance Investigation (CI) is opened by the EPA when there is an issue on a site that is causing, or has the potential to cause an environmental impact and which requires action by the licensee.  The EPA monitors progress to ensure that the actions required are completed.

Compliance Investigations are categorised as High, Medium, or Low based on the risk to the environment.  Points are assigned based on the category of the CI and whether it is ‘Open’ or ‘Closed’.

Compliance Investigations Score Allocations

CI Rating Open  Closed
High 20 points 4 points

Medium

10 points 2 points
Low 3 points 1 point
Note:  Only the top 3 highest scoring CIs are counted   Complaints
  • Complaints

The National Priority Sites system takes account of the number of complaints from the public which are linked to either a Medium or High compliance investigation.

Complaints Score Allocation
1 point per complaint*

* Complaints must be linked to a CI to count towards the score; the maximum score for complaints is 30.

  • Incidents

Operators of licensed facilities are required to notify the EPA on any occasion where there is a breach of a licence condition.  The EPA receives a large number of incidents each year and these are categorised as Minor, Limited, Serious, Very Serious or Catastrophic.  The vast majority of incidents reported to the EPA are minor.

Points are assigned based on the category of the incident.     

Incidents Score Allocation
Catastrophic 30 points
Very Serious 20 points
Serious 10 points
Limited 2 points
Minor No score
  • Non Compliances

The EPA issues a notification of non-compliance (NC) to a facility when a licence condition is breached. Points are assigned based on the number of non-compliances recorded by the EPA.  A greater weighting is applied if a non-compliance is issued for not notifying the EPA of an incident.

Non-Compliances Score allocation
Non-Compliance with licence 1 point
NC for non-notification of an incident 5 points



What score does a National Priority Site have to achieve?

A site becomes a National Priority Site when it has a total score of more than 30 points and a CI score of 10 points or more.

What time period is used to compile the score?

The National Priority Sites List is produced by the EPA on a quarterly basis based on data for the previous 6 months. 

Does a licensed site know their score?

Licensed sites are informed in writing when they are on the National Priority Site List.

All licensed sites can calculate their score based on the compliance information available to them.

What happens to a site that is on the National Priority List?

The EPA is using the National Priority Sites to focus its enforcement effort at the worst performing sites.  Sites that appear on the list are subject to an escalation of enforcement action by the EPA, up to and including legal action, suspension or revocation. 

How can a site get off the National Priority Sites List?

A National Priority Site must address the environmental issues and restore compliance in order to reduce its score.

How often does the EPA publish the National Priority Sites List?

The National Priority Sites list is compiled and published by the EPA on a quarterly basis.

How can I find out more about EPA licensed sites in my area?

View the information on EPA licences, and enforcement records such as site inspection and monitoring reports in our liceence search database.

If you have a specific query and/or a complaint about a licensed industry in your area you can contact us.