Applications open for Environment Protection Board

The Victorian Government has opened expressions of interest for a new Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Governing Board.

The Governing Board will lead EPA Victoria through the transition to new governance arrangements and implement the Victorian Government’s response to the Independent Inquiry into the EPA.

The EPA is seeking high caliber applicants with skills, knowledge or experience in a variety of key areas – including science or engineering, health, environment protection or regulation, regulation of industry, community engagement and local government.

The start of the appointment process follows the passage of the Environment Protection Act 2017 in October  – the first of two pieces of legislation that will overhaul the 47-year-old Environment Protection Act 1970.

The Victorian Government has invested $162.5 million over five years in reforms to environment protection, including $3.1 million for reforms to EPA governance to ensure its independence and accountability.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the reforms that come out of the Environment Protection Act 2017 will help build a stronger, modern EPA to better protect Victoria’s environment and our community.

Applications will be open until 20 November, for a 1 July 2018 commencement. Interested candidates can apply at getonboard.vic.gov.au.

Spring is the season for illegal dumping: EPA Victoria

NSW EPA consults on reforms to recycling C&D waste

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has urged Victorians to choose a reputable bin hire company, as the spring season emerges as the peak period for illegal dumping.

As Victorians get busy redecorating and building, the EPA said this is the time where far too many skip bin loads of renovation waste going missing.

The growth areas of Melbourne, such as the Cities of Hume, Brimbank, Wyndham and Manningham are the hotspots in the metropolitan area, and EPA is working with local councils there and wherever illegal dumping occurs.

Illegal dumping is also a problem in regional areas such as Bendigo, Mildura, Ararat and Geelong where dumping commonly occurs on farmland or on public land such as state or national parks.

Chris Webb of the EPA’s Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce says anyone hiring a skip bin should be careful to choose a respectable company.

“Illegal dumping contaminates the environment, it disadvantages the honest businesses who pay the fees for proper disposal, and it often leaves the community or landholders paying for the clean up,” Mr Webb said.

“There are fly-by-night skip bin operators who will give you a very cheap price, then abandon your renovation waste in the bush, on private land or in a rented warehouse,” he said.

“The landholder, your local council, or even you, might be the one left with the clean-up cost, and unlike the skip bin, it won’t be cheap.”

Typical materials dumped illegally include construction and demolition waste, hazardous materials such as asbestos, and household waste.

“The fine for illegal dumping can be thousands of dollars, and then comes the cost of the clean-up and proper disposal,” Mr Webb said.

The EPA notes that anyone hiring a skip bin should ask questions. If the price seems suspiciously cheap in comparison to other quotes, it may mean the real cost is being dumped on the community and attracting possible prosecution.

The EPA also encouraged the community to watch out for suspicious activities – such as unusual truck movements at night, commercial properties or warehouses collecting piles of waste, or very cheap offers of waste removal – and to report it to the regulator.

During the past two years, EPA has undertaken nearly 350 illegal dumping related inspections, issued more than 170 legal notices requiring a clean up, conducted prosecutions through the courts and issued Infringement Notices that represent a fine of nearly $8000 each.

Anyone with information about illegal dumping is encouraged to report it to EPA by calling 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or via the website www.epa.vic.gov.au

Multimillion dollar Stawell clean-up engaged by EPA Victoria

A stockpile of scrap tyres

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has removed a stockpile of approximately one million tyres from a Stawell site that would have posed a major hazard for nearby communities if it had caught fire.

EPA CEO Nial Finegan said EPA had removed about 9500 tonnes of tyres and shred after repeated failure by the site’s owners to comply with orders to reduce the risk of fire at the site.

“On 2 August 2017, it was decided that little to no effort had been made by the stockpile’s owner to comply with a Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Prevention Notice or any of three EPA notices issued on the site that required the owner to reduce the risk of fire at the site and to segregate tyres into smaller piles; therefore, unacceptable environmental and community risks remained on the eve of the forthcoming fire season,” Mr Finegan said.

“In short, EPA was of the view that the stockpile appeared to have been abandoned or was being handled in a manner by the owners that was likely to cause an environmental hazard.”

Over 380 trucks filled with tyre and shred were taken from the site, with the majority going to Melbourne to be processed at an EPA-licensed site. The site has been inspected twice-weekly during the process to ensure appropriate management. EPA Victoria estimates about 35 per cent were unable to be processed due to contamination from mud and dirt and went to landfill.

Mr Finegan said if the stockpile had caught fire it would have had many environmental, economic and social risks for Stawell and its surrounds.

“The environmental impacts would have included air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways and land contamination. By removing this stockpile, EPA has removed these risks to both the local community and our environment,” Mr Finegan said.

“In the event of a fire there would likely have been a need to evacuate about 7000 people from Stawell. A fire also would have impacted on the brand of Grampians tourism in areas such as the Great Western and the Pyrenees and Grampians wine regions.

“There would also have been agricultural impacts, waterway impacts from fire water and contamination, and a likely closure of major highway and railway connections, not to mention the cost of a likely several-month firefight.

Mr Finegan said EPA’s action to remove the stockpile was seen as a last resort and it will seek to recover costs from current and/or previous owners and occupiers of the site.

“For 10 years, various owners of the stockpile were given every opportunity to comply with legal and regulatory obligations but failed to take material steps to properly manage the site’s risks to the community,” Mr Finegan said.

“The removal of this fire hazard has cost about $5 million, but EPA will use its legal powers to seek to recover these costs from the owners of the site through the courts.”

The coordinated effort saw ignificant input from Northern Grampians Shire Council, CFA, Victoria Police, Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and Department of Health and Human Services.

EPA also engaged private sector partners and local subcontractors to remove the stockpile.