Thousands up in smoke over illegal incinerator

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a South Geelong company $8060 for illegally operating an incinerating machine following community reports of smoke, and the smell of burning plastic.

EPA officers attended Gravel Pits Construction Pty Ltd’s Gravel Pits Rd site in March and found an Air Curtain Burner (ACB), which had been used to burn steel and construction waste.

Use of an ACB, which burns large amounts of combustible material, is a scheduled activity when used to burn industrial waste and requires EPA approval prior to use.

EPA South West Regional Manager Carolyn Francis said Gravel Pits Construction did not have a licence or approval for the ACB.

“The company were using water to cool the remaining material in the incinerator which generated large steam clouds, in addition to the smoke and smell,” she said.

“The regulations are important because they ensure conditions, such as minimum distances from residential properties, fire controls, and acceptable operating hours, are in place to protect public and environmental health.

“Incinerators may seem like a good way to manage waste, but not understanding the regulations can be costly.

“Purchasers need to do their research before using such equipment and consider whether other forms of waste management, such as recycling, may be better for their wallet and the environment.”

Gravel Pits Construction is now compiling a Works Approval application which EPA will consider.

Ms Francis thanked the community for their vigilance.

“The public are our eyes and ears and we thank them for reporting their pollution concerns to our 24-hour hotline 1300 372 842 so we can investigate,” she said.

“We want to be as proactive as possible in stopping harm from pollution and waste and will be working with all Victorian businesses ahead of a new General Environmental Duty being introduced on 1 July 2020 as part of the new EPA Act.

“The Duty will put the onus onto businesses and require people who conduct activities that pose a risk to human health and the environment from pollution and waste to take reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce those risks.”

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2008, Gravel Pits Construction has the right to have the fine reviewed or have the matter determined by a court.

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