Under operator pollution risk appraisal (OPRA), each site will be given an environmental appraisal and an operator performance appraisal. This will provide a score for each site and determine how often the Environment Agency inspects that site.
The objectives of the new system are:
- Making more effective use of the agency's waste inspection resources by targeting inspections on sites where they are most needed;
- Ensuring the agency's site inspections are of the right quality and consistency;
- Providing clear evidence that:
- the agency are carrying out 'appropriate periodic inspections' - as required by the framework directive on waste;
- the agency are effectively supervising sites; and
- the environment and human health are being protected.
Michael Meacher said in response to a parliamentary question from Colin Burgon MP (Elmet):
'Following the publication last year of the consultation paper on operator pollution risk appraisal (OPRA) for waste, I am issuing revised guidance to the Environment Agency to enable the introduction of a risk-based system for the inspection of sites licensed under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
'We must ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of in ways which protect the environment and human health. The site inspections which the Agency carries out are a vital part of this process. The new system will further improve standards by targeting inspections on those sites where they are most needed and making more effective use of the Agency's waste inspection resources.
'It will also provide site licence holders with a risk management system which enables them to identify the environmental risks associated with their site and the operations they carry out; and to assess and improve the quality of their performance in managing those operations and their environmental risks. A copy of the revised guidance which I am issuing to the Agency under section 35(8) of the
1990 Act is being placed in the library of the House.'
The waste management licensing system under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is the main means of fulfilling the requirements of the Framework Directive on waste. The directive requires the government to ensure that sites licensed to recover or dispose of waste are subject to 'appropriate periodic inspections'. The Environment Agency carries out these inspections on the basis of guidance issued by the secretary of state and the national assembly for Wales.
The main guidance on licensing and the frequency of site inspections is set out in waste management papers No.4 'Licensing of waste management facilities' and No. 4A 'Licensing of metal recycling sites'.
Until now, the recommended inspection frequencies have been based on the type of site. For example, 8 inspections a month for co-disposal landfill sites and 1 a month for scrap metal recycling sites.
The introduction of the new system follows a consultation exercise carried out last year. It is called operator and pollution risk appraisal (OPRA) for waste. The main factors are an environmental appraisal and an operator performance appraisal which provide an individual OPRA score for each site.
This OPRA score will determine how often the Environment Agency inspects the site. However, (a) each site will have a base environmental score which will determine the minimum inspection frequency for each site; and (b) since this score will be recalculated quarterly, the minimum inspection frequency that any site will be subject to is once every 3 months.
A copy of the revised guidance which the secretary of state is issuing to the agency will be published on the DETR web site: www.detr.gov.uk.
The new system will be reflected in the annual subsistence charges licence holders are required to pay. The agency's proposals for the charging scheme will be subject to consultation under section 42 of the Environment Act 1995.