The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) continues to make progress on removing millions of tyres from the Stawell stockpile.
Removal works on Saleyards Road began on 9 August, and nearly 2000 tonnes of tyres have already been removed from the site and sent to a Melbourne facility for processing.
While this is a significant number of tyres, it is only a fraction of what needs to be removed to ensure the community’s safety from the stockpile.
The tyre stockpile near Stawell has been a known risk for some time. The Country Fire Authority assessed it as a very high fire risk that presents social, environmental and economic risks for the people of Stawell.
While tyres are stable and not considered to be a hazardous material, if there is a fire, tyres break down into hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals and oil, generating a great deal of smoke.
There are numerous environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire, including impacts on local air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways and land contamination. By removing this stockpile, EPA will remove these risks to both the community and the environment.
The Victorian Government has invested $162.5 million into the EPA to further boost its capacity to manage risks such as those presented by stockpiling of wastes.
The Government is also introducing new laws to further manage the risk of stockpiled waste material through the development of an Interim Waste Management Policy. The policy will target risks from the stockpiling of combustible waste materials.
“The failure of those in control of the site to meet their obligations under various EPA and CFA notices has led to this action being taken,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.
“A tyre fire in Stawell would have had serious health, economic and environmental consequences for the local community.”
According to TSA CEO Dale Gilson, the Stawell stockpile, more recently estimated to be between 1 and 3 million tyres, is “a clear indication of the type of outcome that our organisation is working so hard to prevent.”
Mr Gilson said that the Stawell issue is “a reflection of a previous market failure with limited end-use markets for recycled material creating negative value for old tyres. That is why TSA is investing in opportunities to turn a waste challenge into new products and jobs, whilst at the same time aiming to guide consumers to tyre industry operators who are behaving in a sustainable manner.”