EPA VIC steps up fire risk enforcement

EPA Victoria is intensifying its enforcement campaign at recycling sites, with inspection teams applying a zero-tolerance approach that has already cut the size and impact of recycling fires in Melbourne.

“We don’t want any fires in recycling facilities. Our hard work and practical measures have seen the severity and consequences of fires reduced compared to recent years, but there is still more work to be done” EPA Waste Crime Prevention Director Rachel Gualano said.

She added that the EPA’s new Fire Prevention Program takes a zero-tolerance approach, which means any risk that is not controlled or any non-compliance that is detected will see EPA officers take strong regulatory action including fines and prosecutions.

“The key is on-site inspections by EPA Officers to identify risks and require facility operators to remove hazards before fires start,” Gualano said.

“We will be enforcing stockpile size limits and safety zones around them. By last year those tactics had significantly reduced the number of days with recycling industry fires in comparison to 2017.”

Since the major fires of 2017, the EPA has conducted more than 1000 inspections at 236 resource recovery facilities, issuing 376 notices and 73 sanctions, through the Victorian Government’s multi-agency former Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce.

Since 18 January 2021, EPA has conducted 59 inspections and 21 aerial surveys of high-risk metal recycling businesses.

Fines for non-compliant businesses start with EPA infringement notices costing $8261, and can go as high as $396,528 in a court prosecution.

In addition to stepped up inspections and enforcement action, EPA’s Fire Prevention Program for 2021 also includes education of industry stakeholders.

“EPA is taking a zero tolerance approach to fire risks and expects businesses to understand and manage their risks to prevent fires from occurring,” Gualano said.

“The program is under way with metals recyclers and has begun to expand into the broader waste and recycling industry.”

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