Victoria, Australia, will hold a state-wide audit of recycling facilities and increase the power of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) after a huge acrid fire in Melbourne’s forced the evacuation of nearby residents.
Stockpiles of Paper and Plastics Burned at the Coolaroo facility Produces Thick Smoke for Days
Locals said they were angry and frustrated, with a number of fires breaking out at the facility in recent years.
The Victoria Minister for Energy and Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio, said the Government would work to make sure a fire such as this never happened again.
“There’s a lot of questions that have been asked, quite rightly, a lot of answers that do need to be provided to the community,” she said.
She said a joint taskforce between the EPA, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Brigade and Emergency Management Victoria will audit all recycling facilities across the state.
“That will be to ascertain risk and mitigation factors, and measures that ought to be in place, should be in place,” she said.
The EPA will be given additional interim powers to manage those facilities to better meet community standards, while a new licencing regime will also be introduced to create an additional layer of obligation, Ms D’Ambrosio said.
The CEO of the Australian Council of Recycling had earlier said Victoria’s regulation of stockpiled landfills, like the Coolaroo plant, was lagging behind other states.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful. In other neighbouring jurisdictions, you simply aren’t allowed to have stockpiles of that size, I think the State Government has certainly been caught napping,” Grant Musgrove said.
“The Government also has vast resources at its disposal to prevent such incidents, specifically half a billion dollars in the sustainability fund derived from landfill levy revenue, which isn’t being deployed for its legislated purpose, which is resource recovery.”
“I’ve made representations over a long period of time in relation to Victoria’s stockpiles, whether it be tyres or plastics. It’s the equivalent of an oil fire and it simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
Mr Musgrove said the recycling industry had worked closely with South Australian and New South Wales governments, in particular, to reduce stockpiles in those states, which have penalties if companies go over the legal limit.
He said with responsibility falling across a number of government agencies – the Environmental Protection Authority, the Department of Environment, Land and Water and Planning, and Sustainability Victoria – there was “no cohesive strategy”.