Inadequate monitoring and tracking of VIC chemical waste

Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been advised to improve its systems and process relating to chemical waste management, following its failure to properly monitor dangerous chemicals and sites across the state.

An audit was commissioned by the EPA board in the wake of the largest illegal chemical waste dumping operation in the state’s history, and the subsequent discovery of illegally stockpiled chemical waste in several sites across northern and western Melbourne.

The audit conducted by Ernst and Young (EY) covers the EPA’s management of 14 chemical waste sites between January 2016 and April 2019.

The review was prompted after more than six million litres of chemical waste were discovered at the warehouses as part of targeted inspections related to 2018’s West Footscray toxic warehouse fire. 

“The past practices revealed by this report will be unacceptable to Victorians, and they are unacceptable to me,” EPA chief executive Dr Cathy Wilkinson said.

“For that, EPA apologises to Victorians.”

She said the challenges facing EPA have evolved rapidly in recent years, 

“Combating growing waste crime will require new technologies, intelligence capability and specialist surveillance experts,” Wilkinson said.

“We are working more closely than ever before with Victoria Police and WorkSafe to protect the community from pollution and waste.”

The EY report found during the audit period, the EPA had inadequate record keeping and a failure to properly monitor the transport of hazardous waste.

EY stated in the report that the audit identified gaps in EPA’s governance practices supporting effective oversight of incident prioritisation decisions, lack of clearly defined standards and expectations for retaining key pollution report documents, and opportunities to enhance the use of intelligence sources across the organisation.

Key findings included inconsistent approach to the documentation of pollution reports within Integrated Business Information System, inadequate monitoring and poor quality of pollution reports, incident reporting and performance.

“Public intelligence data and information was not effectively used to inform the proactive identification of emerging issues or behaviours that may result in future noncompliance or risks to community safety,” the report found.

The review also found that during the audit period, there was inadequate monitoring, reporting and trend analysis of Waste Transport Certificate data needed to identify trends and areas of key risks associated with chemical waste storage.

The report found that these certificates were not monitored, resulting in EPA staff not having full knowledge of risks.

Another finding said the EPA operated in “strong silos”, with limited ability to combat illegal storage of waste or address pollution problems important to community safety.

The Victorian Government recently invested $71.4 million to safely manage high-risk and hazardous wastes including a Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within EPA.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the state government had given record funding to the EPA to strengthen its operations.

“It is my expectation that the EPA works tirelessly to protect the environment and keeps Victorians safe from pollution. This is what the community deserves,” she said.

EY auditors made a number of recommendations following its findings, including system control enhancement recommendations.

“Management also needs to introduce formalised auditing processes over response decision making,” the report states. 

“Between now and the legislative go-live, we recommend that management conducts an assessment of other waste sites to review the decision making and outcomes of high priority pollution reports and whether a follow up inspection of the sites is required.”

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Melbourne composting facility receives final EPA approval

An industrial composting facility in Melbourne’s Dandenong South has received final environmental approval from EPA Victoria.

The facility is operated by international waste management company Sacyr, with a biological and air treatment system designed by Waste Treatment Technologies.

The $65 million facility operates under a contract negotiated by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) on behalf of eight councils.

“Through this collaborative contract, Sacyr Environment Australia receives enough kerbside material to run its facility, which has processing capacity of up to 120,000 tonnes annually,” a MWRRG statement reads.

The facility is a part of Melbourne’s food and green waste processing network, which has a target of 400,000 tonnes of capacity by 2021, as set out in the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

The facility, operating with conditional approval from the EPA, has processed household food and green waste from Melbourne’s south east since May 2019.

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MWRRG opens EOIs for advanced waste processing facility

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has opened expressions of interest to design, build and operate an advanced waste processing facility for Melbourne’s household rubbish.

According to WWRRG CEO Jill Riseley, the tender is largest of its kind ever undertaken by Melbourne councils.

“Advanced waste processing solutions will play a significant role in achieving the Victorian Government’s new target to divert 80 per cent of household rubbish from landfill by 2030,” she said.

“Sixteen councils from the south east of Melbourne are involved in the tender, and together the councils collected over 490,000 tonnes of residual rubbish in 2016. This is forecast to grow to over 700,000 tonnes a year by 2046.”

Starting with the call for expressions of interest, Ms Riseley said the procurement process would take approximately two years.

“The procurement will focus on the financial, environmental and social outcomes councils want to achieve rather than specify a technology,” she said.

“It will be up to bidders to recommend proven and appropriate solutions, and to demonstrate how they deliver on councils’ objectives.”

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Waste Expo Australia

Waste Expo Australia will take place 21 to 22 October at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre showcasing over 120 brands and 35 hours of free-to-attend content over three conference stages.

The event is one of the largest gatherings of waste management and resource professionals in Australia and offers exclusive access to latest technology, information and trends while providing networking opportunities with industry experts.

Featuring over 120 brands and three conference stages that showcase over 35 hours of free-to-attend content, Waste Expo Australia is a platform for exclusive access to the latest technology, information and trends and to hear from industry experts and network with your peers.

Waste Expo Australia will examine the future of waste and recycling in the country, focusing on seven targeted areas: collections, resource recovery, landfill and transfer stations, waste to energy, commercial and industrial waste, construction and demolition waste and wastewater.

 

Yarra to introduce four bin kerbside system

Yarra City Councillors have voted to roll out a four-bin kerbside system, with separate bins supplied for organics and glass.

According to councillor Misha Coleman, the new waste and recycling collection model is based on a successful trial of 1300 households in Abbotsford in Melbourne’s inner north.

“The new service introduces a new food and green waste service that will be collected weekly, removing much of the material that causes odours,” she said.

“Another additional new bin will be added for glass, which will be processed locally and used to make new glass containers and for local asphalt.”

Under the new system, glass, commingled recycling and landfill waste bins will be collected fortnightly.

Ms Coleman said Yarra City Council first began the trial “because recycling in Australia is in crisis.”

“It’s time we did things very, very differently, and councils and communities like ours are providing the leadership to drive change in this industry,” she said.

“There is a growing trend of councils moving to greater separation of waste to reduce reliance on unsustainable landfills and to improve reuse of recyclable materials. Eleven other councils in Victoria are moving to a fortnightly landfill waste collection service.”

Ms Coleman added that as a result of the trial, Yarra has seen a dramatic reduction in waste sent to landfill: diverting roughly 60 per cent of all household waste.

“The benefits of this new system include a significant reduction in the amount of waste sent to landfill, a substantial increase in the quality of recyclable materials, and very significant reductions in truck movements around our city, which will reduce vehicle emissions,” she said.

According to Ms Coleman, under the 4-bin model, households will have an increased bin capacity of 50 litres per week.

“We surveyed over 400 residents in the trial area. Almost 80 per cent told us they think these changes are an improvement in managing waste, and just under 90 per cent support separating their waste for collection,” she said.

“Almost 73 per cent of trial participants were satisfied with the fortnightly garbage collection.”

Changes will come into effect from July 2020.

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City of Yarra phases out single-use plastic

The City of Yarra is phasing out the sale of single-use plastic bottles and straws at all leisure facilities across the inner Melbourne municipality.

Following a July 2019 council resolution, Yarra City Council announced leisure centres would be the first council-run facilities to eliminate single-use bottles and straws, with other facilities set to follow.

According to a Yarra City Council statement, the phase out begun 1 January 2020, with staff now working with current suppliers to source plastic free product alternatives.

“By removing plastic bottles from our Yarra Leisure facilities, we expect to eliminate the consumption of approximately 17,000 plastic bottles each year,” the statement reads.

“This figure is based on our annual plastic bottle consumption across our facilities during 2018/19.”

Former Yarra Mayor Danae Bosler said going plastic-free is an important step in the council’s long-term ambition to become a zero waste city.

“Single-use plastics have a terrible impact on our environment, particularly our waterways, and our community expects us to take real action on this issue,” she said.

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City of Melbourne installs floating waste bins

The City of Melbourne has installed floating waste bins to stop litter washing into the Yarra River at Docklands.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said five Seabins have been installed at Yarra’s Edge Marina, following a successful trial earlier this year.

“Unfortunately an estimated 1.4 billion pieces of rubbish flow into Port Phillip Bay from the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers each year,” Ms Capp said.

“Using Seabins we can collect up to 200 kilograms of rubbish a day. The Seabin units catch cigarette butts and plastic packaging, as well as oil, detergents and micro plastics that can’t be seen by the human eye.”

According to Ms Capp, Seabins work like a pool skimmer and collect litter using an underwater pump.

“The Seabins are emptied twice daily and data is sent to Seabin Foundation’s Pollution Index and Tangaroa Blue to help monitor the impact of debris along Australia’s coastline, as well as to inform City of Melbourne strategies for litter reduction,” Ms Capp said.

“These include street-cleaning, litter traps, water sensitive urban design and storm-water capture.”

The Victorian Government also manages 18 litter traps on the Yarra River, nine of which are located within the City of Melbourne.

City of Melbourne Environment Chair Cathy Oke said food wrappers, cigarette butts, polystyrene, plastic bottles and rubber have all been collected by the Seabins at Docklands.

“Water quality begins with people disposing of rubbish more carefully in our streets and suburbs. The Seabins need to be seen as the last line of defence before waste enters the bay,” Ms Oke said.

“We’re urging Melburnians to recycle as much as possible, say no to single-use plastic and always dispose of rubbish mindfully.”

Seabin Project Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Pete Ceglinski said the ‘smart bins’ have collected an estimated 1,000,000 kilograms of plastic in the last 12 months, from locations in 52 countries.

“The deployment of the Seabin fleet with City Of Melbourne is a critical first step in obtaining our objective of working with local, state and federal governments globally,” he said.

“Our ethos is simple, if we have rubbish bins on land, why not in the water?”

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