Fire prevention teams from Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) have inspected over 200 waste and resource recovery sites across Victoria so far this year, as part of a targeted prevention campaign.
Many of the sites have not had regular contact with EPA in the past, and EPA’s teams found 80% of operators were not fully complying with environmental regulations in some way.
EPA officers have given informal advice for minor non-compliances and issued legally enforceable orders for the more serious hazards, to ensure each business is addressing any issues on its site.
EPA’s Director of Waste Crime Prevention, Rachel Gualano, says the Fire Prevention Program is part of EPA’s major front-line compliance and prevention focus, addressing the causes and risks of fires at some of the highest risk sites across the state.
“Fires at waste and recycling facilities are potentially devastating. They represent an unacceptable risk to Victorians, the environment and industry, and could result in clean-up costs in the millions of dollars,” Ms Gualano said.
“An EPA inspection might not always be convenient for a business, but failing to comply has far worse potential consequences; you are better off having a visit from EPA than potentially causing a devastating fire that harms your staff, your business, the community, and the environment. Stamp out your fire risk,” she said.
Since January, EPA officers have found hazards and unsafe practices on some sites that are now being fixed, such as oversized and poorly separated stockpiles of waste, and a lack of fire prevention and firefighting controls.
Officers have also found too many businesses do not understand the fire risks on their own site, or how to manage them effectively. Under Victoria’s new environment protection law, duty holders must understand fire risks and use appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce them.
“When EPA says it has zero tolerance to fire hazards, we mean fire is not an option. The very strong message to industry is that EPA will not tolerate deliberate non-compliance and fire hazards,” Ms Gualano said.