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Noise, Odour and Air Pollution

Poor air quality can have adverse impacts on people’s health, particularly for older people and people who have respiratory health issues such as asthma. It can damage lung function, cause cancer and other diseases and, in extreme cases, even death. The EPA monitors air quality at 8 metropolitan stations and 3 regional stations. Generally, South Australia’s air quality is pretty good. Noise and odour can impact the amenity of an area and be detrimental to a person’s health and wellbeing and interfere with people’s lifestyles.

Nature of Incidents

The EPA is responsible for assessing and managing noise, odour and air quality issues if they are coming from an EPA licensed site. If this is not the case, councils have the capacity to manage these issues under the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016. Nuisance can be in the form of dust, odour, noise, smoke, fumes, aerosols, vibration and insanitary or unsightly conditions from domestic, commercial and industrial premises. To be considered a nuisance, this must ‘constitute an unreasonable interference with the enjoyment of the neighbouring premises by persons occupying those premises’.

Noise, odour and air incidents make up half of the incidents reported to the EPA via its pollution reporting line. Higher density living and residential encroachment onto industrial and agricultural areas may increase the prevalence of these incidents being reported. In addition, the emergence of new industry sectors and expansion of existing industries may also result in an increase in environmental nuisance being raised and needing to be addressed, regulated and managed, for example, Le Fevre Peninsula and Neutrog.

Total number of air and noise incidents (by category) reported to the EPA
Number of air and noise incidents compared to total number of incidents reported to the EPA

There has also been considerable concern about the impacts that noise from wind farms have on people’s health, particularly with respect to sleep quality. Flinders University undertook a sleep study that compared wind-farm noise with traffic noise, and the results, which were presented at the Wind Farm Noise 2023 international conference in Dublin, indicated that wind farm noise is not more disruptive to sleep than traffic noise.

Wood smoke from wood heaters has also raised community concerns. The EPA undertook a monitoring program in collaboration with the Mount Barker District Council to identify the extent of smoke and other emissions from wood heating. As expected, emissions increased significantly during the winter period and were more elevated at night when people were more likely to be at home and using their wood heaters. Currently, there are legislated requirements that specify Australian standards for wood heaters and moisture content for firewood that is sold by retail outlets. However, wood smoke is still an issue for many communities in South Australia. 

Hotter and dryer conditions resulting from climate change is likely to increase the occurrence of dust and pollen and increase the risk of smoke impacts from bushfires.

Managing Environmental Nuisance

This section provides examples of pressures that are, or may be, affecting the occurrence of environmental nuisance, how we are responding to address these issues and what opportunities there are for improvement. It should be noted that many of the pressures, impacts and responses are interlinked.


  • Industry and residential interface. This includes the expansion of industries to meet growing demands and growth of residential areas that encroach upon nearby existing industries, eg Neutrog (odour) and Le Fevre Peninsula (noise).
  • High-density housing decreasing the distance between one house and another.
  • Emissions from various sources such as wood smoke, dust, pollen, vehicles (which can be exacerbated by weather) and population growth.


  • Some industries emit noise and odour that can cause nuisance to neighbouring residential properties. This may impact people’s health and wellbeing.
  • High-density housing may increase the risk of noise issues such as air conditioners, barking dogs, power tools and wood smoke.
  • Emissions from various sources may result in human health issues.


South Australia noise jurisdictions (EPA)


  • Planting of trees and shrubs can create a natural sound barrier, particularly in new developments.
  • Better delivery of education for wood-heater users on how to reduce smoke production.

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Air Quality