Evaluation on autopilot – Environment Protection Agency,Victoria

Photo: Joe Armao (The Age)

What’s worse than no evaluation? An evaluation that is wrong but you think is right.

Organizations that provide authoratitive evaluations have an obligation to meet high standards of accuracy and consistency. It is therefore hard to believe the series of events that led to Victoria’s Environmental Protection Agency listing Melbourne’s bayside beaches as “good”, and suitable for swimming when the level of bacteria was 40 times the acceptable limit.

According to The Age report,

[EPA] staff were not working on the ChristmasDay and Boxing Day public holidays, and as a result old forecast information was fed automatically into the website from Saturday until yesterday. These forecasts were made on Friday afternoon, and did not take into account the ferociousness of the Christmas Day storms.

On Sunday (Christmas Day) a massive storm hit Melbourne, sending debris, rubbish, cigarette butts and dog droppings into storm water drains. But for two days the EPA was operating on autopilot, issuing reports on the web site and tweets based on the projected water quality not the actual water quality.

And what has the EPA learned from this? Nothing, apparently. According to The Age, no EPA staff will be working on the New Year’s Day public holiday, and once again reports will be based on the weather forecast not on actual testing. A spokesman said beachgoers “should use their own judgment” in deciding to go swimming after storms like those that hit on Christmas Day.

Which does raise the question – if beachgoers should use their own judgment, because it is more likely to be accurate than the official reports, what’s the point of having the official reports?

Here’s what SHOULD happen. Either roster someone to work on these public holidays and ensure the reports are actually based on data ( it’s summer here and people are going to the beaches) OR issue a clear statement on the website, tweets and to news media that an accurate report cannot be provided due to the public holidays. No report is better than an inaccurate report.

1 comment to Evaluation on autopilot – Environment Protection Agency,Victoria

  • Gabriel Della-Piana

    EPA could do more and beachgoers could do more.
    EPA could report that when they have no data the beachgoers should keep in mind
    that beach conditions could be dangerous under conditions such as storms in which debris could bring in pollution, etc. etc.

    Beachgoers, alerted to such lapses, could set up their own checking system.