Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined one of Victoria’s largest waste companies more than $8,000, for failing to comply with its EPA licence following a fire in a stockpile of organic material in February 2021.
A drone survey of the SUEZ RECYCLING & RECOVERY PTY LTD Cooper St, Epping premises later found that stockpiles of combustible material exceeded the dimensions required by fire prevention policies and had the potential to not only increase the impacts of a fire, but also to reduce the ability of emergency services to extinguish it.
EPA Northern Metropolitan Manager Jeremy Settle said that EPA has zero tolerance for fires at waste and resource recovery sites, and zero tolerance for non-compliance with fire prevention policies.
“In response to the incident, EPA served a notice that required that the company to bring the storage of the combustible material into compliance with requirements set out in their management document and fire prevention policies. That notice has since been complied with” Mr. Settle said.
EPA issued SUEZ RECYCLING & RECOVERY PTY LTD with an $8,261 fine, which was challenged through the EPA’s internal review process, but upheld. SUEZ has now paid the fine in full..
“Industry must take steps to minimise the risk of fire occurring at their sites, and also have a plan in place to respond in the event that a fire does happen,” Mr Settle said.
Under the new Environment Protection Act, which came into force on 1 July this year, a criminally enforceable General Environmental Duty (GED), has been introduced. Under the GED there is a responsibility for anyone whose activities may involve the creation of pollution to take reasonable steps to eliminate risk to human health and the environment.
“This further reinforces the expectation that companies will take steps to prevent pollution, or fires, from occurring rather than wait for an event to improve controls. If they do not act, EPA can and will take enforcement action,” said Mr Settle.
Members of the public can report pollution via EPA’s 24-hour hotline, 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or the EPA website www.epa.vic.gov.au