Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) will step in to remove hotspots contained within stockpiles at Coolaroo company Glass Recovery Services.
EPA will also use its powers to secure the site and ensure appropriate fire response capabilities are in place.
Works will also be undertaken to ensure that emergency services can gain access around the site.
EPA is using powers under Section 62 of the Environment Protection Act 1970 to conduct the work. It has chosen to do so only after repeated failure by the site’s owners to comply with notices which required remedial action to occur on the site.
The latest regulatory move by EPA comes after Glass Recovery Services failed to respond adequately to a show cause letter issued to the company that asked the company to explain why EPA should not undertake works at the site.
The action also comes after a spot fire occurred at the Coolaroo site on Thursday 24 October that demonstrated, amongst other factors, that the stockpile of industrial waste is not being adequately managed to protect community and environment.
Works to remove identified hotspots are expected to begin early next week. There is no estimate at this stage as to how long the removal of hotspots will take or how much it will cost. The Environment Protection Act 1970 empowers EPA to pursue costs of works undertaken.
An appropriate licensed facility will need to be identified that is able to take any of the removed contaminated waste.
EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson said EPA would continue to use all regulatory tools at its disposal.
“This work is being undertaken by EPA to reduce risk to local communities and the environment,” Dr Wilkinson.
In the interim, EPA continues to engage in additional regulatory action in relation to Glass Recovery Services.
Current regulatory action undertaken by EPA
EPA officers have been regularly inspecting the site to hold Glass Recovery Services to account against the Victorian Waste Management Policy and since early September have taken the additional step of installing 24/7 security.
EPA has laid 14 charges against the company and its sole director for notice contraventions and breaches of the Victorian Waste Management Policy. EPA has also issued notices that require the company to cease accepting all waste, to take action to comply with the Victorian Waste Management Policy and to monitor any hotspots within its stockpiles to reduce the risk of a fire occurring.
EPA has found that a black substance that entered Merlynston Creek on 21 October 2019 and flowed into Jack Roper Reserve originated from the Glass Recovery Services site. EPA has confirmed it was leachate, which has seen signs put up advising the community to stay away from the waterways due to health concerns caused by the spill.
An investigation into the spill will determine what compliance and enforcement action EPA will take in relation to the pollution of the local waterway. EPA expects to take compliance and enforcement action within weeks.
The 14 charges previously laid allege the company and the director breached the company’s licence by allowing waste to be discharged, emitted or deposited outside its Maffra St, Coolaroo property on 12 October 2018, 21 February 2019, 28 and 29 March 2019 and 1 April 2019.
The charges also allege Glass Recovery Services and the director contravened the company’s licence by failing to ensure waste at the premises didn’t burn on 29 March 2019.
In addition, GRS and the director have each been charged with two counts of failing to comply with a notice requiring the removal of any combustible and recyclable waste material stored outdoors, most recently on 6 September.
The maximum penalty for a licence contravention is $386,856.
As this matter is now before the courts EPA will not make any further comment about these charges.
The first mention of this case is due be heard at Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on 31 October.
Under the notice requiring the company to monitor stockpile hotspots, Glass Recovery Services is also required to excavate and remove any waste above a temperature of 50°C in order to reduce the temperatures within its stockpiles.
The company must also undertake daily temperature monitoring, odour surveillance and visual inspections. In addition, an EPA drone is being used to conduct thermal imaging of the site’s stockpiles and an independent fire engineer has also provided advice about how the stockpiles should be managed to reduce any risk of fire.
EPA’s strong regulatory actions are further supported by the VCAT orders obtained by Hume City Council.