Fire risk of Geelong recycling stockpiles a warning: EPA Victoria

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says a $8060 fine issued over non-compliant stockpiling of recyclable waste north-west of Geelong should serve as warning for waste management companies across the state.

EPA South West Manager Carolyn Francis said the loose stockpiles of combustible timber waste could pose a significant challenge for fire services if they were to catch fire.

“If those stockpiles ignited, firefighters could face major challenges protecting the health and environmental safety of the surrounding area,” Ms Francis said.

EPA issued the site operator with a fine for not complying with a legally binding remedial notice to manage the stockpiles in line with EPA Waste Management Policy requirements.

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The unsafe stockpiles were detected through the Victorian Government’s Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce, which has been auditing recycling facilities to identify non-compliance, including the stockpiling of materials that pose a fire risk to community safety and the environment.

Despite EPA issuing the operator with a remedial notice in October 2018, a follow-up inspection in December revealed that the operator had not completed the works required to improve stockpile sizes and management.

The operator has since started work to meet materials recycling guidelines at the premises, with EPA continuing to closely monitor its progress. A further two remedial notices are due for compliance shortly.

“The EPA Guidelines on the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials were established to reduce the risk of fire, and the impacts of smoke and fire water run-off.  They cover issues including separation distances, firefighting facilities, staff training, emergency management planning and preventative behaviours including regular inspections and hazard identification,” Ms Francis said.

Ms Francis said EPA takes a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance against the Waste Management Policy requirements and expects the recycling industry to take their compliance obligations seriously.

“EPA is continuing inspections of these premises to ensure compliance and reduce the risk that a fire could cause to the community and the environment,” Ms Francis said.

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2008, the company has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notice reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.

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