EPA takes enforcement action to reduce risk of fire at recycling sites

Alleged failure to meet regulatory requirements by three businesses across four metal and building and construction recycling sites has seen Environment Protection Authority (EPA) officers issue notices that require the companies to cease accepting any new recyclable waste materials at those sites.

EPA has taken this action to reduce any potential fire risks to human health and the environment posed by stockpiles of recyclable waste materials at the sites.

Two notices to cease accepting new materials were issued to Manhari Metals for its Tottenham and Horsham sites, one to National Metal Recycling at its Preston site and one was issued on Action Recovery and Recycling’s Brooklyn site.

The notice issued to Manhari Metals in Tottenham has now been complied with by the operator and EPA has determined the site can resume taking new materials for processing.

The metal recycling industry accepts scrap metal from multiple sources, including the automotive sector and construction. The scrap metal waste stream may also include other wastes such as foams, rubber, plastics, e-waste, batteries and oil and grease residues, which can increase the intensity of fires.

The issues identified during EPA inspections mostly involve non-compliance with required size limits and minimum separation distances around stockpiles of scrap metal and combustible recyclable and waste materials on the sites, and the resulting risk of pollution and fire.

EPA officers identified the excessive stockpiles during inspections and the resulting regulatory notices give the operators a clear list of the actions required to achieve compliance with regulations and reduce the risk of fires at the sites.

Compliance with required stockpile size limits and separation distances gives firefighters safer access and helps to contain any fire to a smaller area. Failure to comply brings the risk of a larger fire, more pollution of the air, land and waterways, and the potential for the fire to spread to neighbouring properties.

Companies can still process waste at the sites while the notices are in place but will not be able to receive any new materials until EPA is satisfied that compliance with regulatory requirements has been achieved.

Regular inspections of the sites are continuing, and EPA is actively investigating non-compliances at the sites and possible penalties under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

EPA inspections include visits by staff on the ground and aerial drone flights over the company’s locations to check on the stockpiles.

EPA Director of Waste Crime Prevention Rachel Gualano said officers had formed the view that the duty holders had not taken reasonable steps to manage and store combustible recyclable and waste materials at the facilities.

“EPA takes a zero-tolerance approach to fire risk in the waste and recycling industry and will take all appropriate regulatory action to protect the community and the environment,” Ms Gualano said.

“Fire risks at any recycling facilities are unacceptable and EPA expects all duty holders to manage their risks to prevent any fires from occurring. Under the Environment Protection Act 1970, the resource recovery sector including metal recyclers are reminded that they need to comply fully with the Waste Management Policy and associated Guidelines for Combustible Recyclable Waste which can be located on EPA’s website.

“If they fail to do so EPA will continue to take this strong approach in the form of compliance and enforcement action.

“We are also asking the community to support EPA by reporting any recycling sites that may pose a high fire risk. If you see tightly packed, large or rapidly growing stockpiles at a metal recycling site near you please call EPA, anonymously if you chose, on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).”

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