Numurkah tyre stockpile clean-up almost done

Work to clean up a dangerous stockpile of half a million tyres at Numurkah is close to complete, after the Victorian Government used its legislative powers to enter the site.

The work began in December 2018 and up to eight trucks a day have taken loads of tyres for shredding and recycling at an Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria licensed facility in Melbourne.

The remaining tyres at Numurkah have been removed after the EPA found the facility posed a fire risk.

Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile had an estimated 500,000 tyres, with a quarter being removed in January.

The EPA used its powers under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to remove the stockpile after other legal options had been exhausted.

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Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said preventing this sort of risk is why the government gave the EPA stronger powers.

Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said the stockpile was an unacceptable risk to the community.

The CFA deemed potential fire consequences at the premises ‘catastrophic’ given its proximity to residences and business.

1200 tonnes removed in Numurkah tyre stockpile clean-up

About one quarter of a tyre stockpile in the Victorian town of Numurkah has been removed – equating to an estimated tonnes of 1200 tyres.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) used its powers at the end of last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council and funding from the Victorian Government.

Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile on privately-owned land has a stockpile of an estimated 500,000 tyres.

EPA Victoria North East Region Manager Emma Knights said the disposal of the tyres was going well.

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“The project has been carefully planned, and the tyres removed so far have come from the sides of the stockpile where the hazards are most critical,” Ms Knights said.

“Aerial pictures taken by an EPA camera drone late last week show piles of waste tyres have been removed from the eastern side, closest to homes along the Goulburn Valley Highway. The southern side, which faces several business premises, is currently being removed,” she said.

The removal began in mid December with up to eight trucks a day leaving the site, five days a week, and the whole project is estimated to take approximately 10 weeks.

“The work is progressing well and we are on schedule, although the completion date will depend on the weather, including any days of total fire ban,” Ms Knights said.

The stockpile has been a concern to the community for some time.

“Tyre fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and produce considerable amounts of toxic smoke. With an estimated 5000 tonnes of waste tyres at the site, CFA has already warned of serious consequences if a summer grass or bushfire spreads to the stockpile,” she said.

The clean-up was carefully planned to include fire safety, security and wildlife and vermin management. Firefighting equipment is located on site for the duration of the clean-up, and no snakes have been observed so far during tyre removal.

The waste tyres are going to a licensed facility in Melbourne for recycling. Once they have been shredded, waste tyres can be put to use in the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, in the form of products such as athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfacing.

EPA Victoria warns of tyre stockpile fire hazard

Environment Protection Authority Victoria has issued a warning to landowners about the flammable risk of tyre stockpiles over summer and its consequences on human health.

Chris Webb of the EPA’s Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce said summer grass fires and bushfires are dangerous enough without stockpiles of unused waste tyres waiting in their path.

“Tyre fires are very hard to control and generate hazardous smoke that can cause an even greater health risk to the community, through the inhalation of particles and chemicals,” Mr Webb said.

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“It’s a threat to the landholder’s livelihood and the homes and safety of people who live nearby, whether they are on neighbouring farms or in a nearby town or suburban area,” he said.

“Farmers do have some practical uses for old tyres like holding down tarps, but many tyre stockpiles are just a fire hazard and a threat to the environment.”

EPA Victoria noted old tyres shouldn’t be used for erosion control or around new trees, it is illegal to burn or dump them. If left for long enough, they begin to decay and can pollute the soil and groundwater.

In 2015, EPA introduced tighter controls for waste tyre storage, prompting a significant reduction in the number of known stockpiles across Victoria, but there are more stockpiles out there.

The regulations require any stockpile of more than 40 tonnes or 5000 waste tyres to be licensed, with requirements for on-site firefighting resources, limits on the size of the piles and minimum distances between and around them.

EPA’s Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce is tackling the problem of stockpiles of unused waste tyres, encouraging owners to help to protect the community by making sure their stockpile complies with the regulations, or by legally disposing of the tyres.

Some waste tyres go to landfill, but many can be recycled, and there are several recycling companies in Victoria. When EPA recently took over a long-standing stockpile of approximately one million waste tyres at Stawell, most of those tyres were recycled.  EPA is now pursuing the stockpile owners through the courts.

“When necessary, EPA can exercise legal power to order that an illegal tyre stockpile be removed for appropriate disposal, fine the owner or take the case to court, but we would much rather that landholders looked at the regulations, and either made sure their stockpile was legal or disposed of it responsibly,” Mr Webb said.

To view the EPA tyre regulations and CFA/MFB guidelines for the safe storage of tyres, visit their website. 

If any member of the community suspects someone is illegally stockpiling tyres or taking them to a place that cannot lawfully accept waste tyres, they are encouraged to contact EPA’s 24-hour pollution hotline on 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).