Update: Tuesday 26 November
EPA continues to work closely with regularity partners Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), Hume City Council, and WorkSafe, to ensure a coordinated approach to driving compliance at the GRS site.
As of 22 November, EPA has removed approximately 4557 cubic meters of waste from GRS. To further improve environmental outcomes with our work we have also removed a significant volume of leachate from the site to prevent a pollution incident from happening.
EPA remains focused on the safe removal of hotspots from the site as well as installing appropriate access along the eastern and southern boundaries for emergency access if required.
All waste removed from the site is being taken to an EPA licensed or permitted site for appropriate disposal.
EPA continues to monitor air quality onsite as safety and clean-up work happens to test for air pollutants called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). We are doing this to help the community make informed decisions on their health and wellbeing.
To date all monitoring results have been at concentrations well below guideline values that are indicators of human health.
Up to date air quality information monitoring the level of pollutants in the air (PM2.5 and PM10) at the incident site is available on EPA AirWatch.
Odours on their own are not a reliable way to determine the risk of health impacts. Even though the odour of many chemicals can be detected in the air it does not mean that it will impact your health.
This does not mean that people are not adversely impacted by odours coming from the GRS site. People react to odours in different ways depending on exposure and whether they have any chemical sensitivity.
If you experience odours that make you feel unwell, you should avoid the area if possible.
If you feel unwell call NURSE ON CALL (1300 60 60 24) or visit your local doctor.
Update: Monday 4 November
Last week, EPA took samples of the air around the GRS facility to look for gases which could be released as part of work at the site.
EPA found some chemicals in the air (ethylbenzene, heptane, xylenes, naphthalene, propylene, styrene, toluene). These chemicals were found at concentrations too low to impact community health. Chemicals found in the air around GRS were found at concentrations below the air quality standard, which indicate they are too low to negatively impact long-term community health.
The chemicals that were found are in line with those caused by traffic. This does not mean odour is not causing impacts to health near GRS. The chemicals causing these odours may not have been detected in our samples.
Observations of the airborne dust samples indicate that glass shards are present, but they are not the main component of the dust and well below occupational standards.
Results of personal inhalable dust monitoring indicate that the exposures to glass is well below the Safe Work Australia Workplace Exposure Standards and the Australia Institute of Occupational Hygienists trigger value.
On Friday 25 October, EPA took action to address hotspots identified within stockpiles at GRS in Coolaroo.
- the excavation/ project management company commenced set up and moving equipment onto site
- a private fire response service was established on site
- existing security service moved on site.
Over the weekend EPA Authorised Officers attended onsite to conduct monitoring and they:
- measured high temperatures in areas previously impacted by fire
- observed smoke plumes
- smelt a strong smell of smoke in the vicinity of the hotspots.
On Monday 28 October EPA engaged a series of contractors to support the hotspot cleanup. To reduce the immediate risk of fire, EPA is focussed on the following key measures:
- implementing 24/7 onsite security
- implementing 24/7 onsite initial response firefighting capability
- undertaking essential fire risk reduction measures including:
- constructing an internal road around the outdoor stockpile to enable safe site access for a fire response
- excavating and making safe areas of high heat.
This work is being undertaken by EPA to reduce risk to local communities and the environment.
There is no estimate at this stage of how long the removal of hotspots will take.
What are the offsite effects?
A black substance entered Merlynston Creek on 21 October 2019 and flowed into Jack Roper Reserve. EPA has found that it originated from the Glass Recovery Services site.
EPA has confirmed that the black substance was leachate. Signs have been put up advising the community to stay away from the affected 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.
What regulatory action has EPA already taken?
EPA officers have been regularly inspecting the site to hold Glass Recovery Services to account against the Victorian Waste Management Policy. Since early September, EPA has taken the additional step of laying 14 criminal 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 GRS 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.
Why is EPA stepping in now?
The action comes after a spot-fire occurred at the Coolaroo site on Thursday 24 October that demonstrated that the stockpile of waste was not being managed adequately to protect community and the environment.
An incident at the site in mid-October that emergency services attended turned out to be steam coming from the company’s stockpile and not a fire as was widely reported.
What does EPA’s work at the site involve?
Site monitoring including, reviewing the current hotspots at 30-minute intervals, as well as visual patrols of the remaining area of the stockpile will be conducted. A drone with a thermal imaging camera will make regular flights over the site to identify any new hotspots.
EPA will undertake air sampling from hotspots to confirm observed gas emissions and inform possible future control actions.
Access roads will be built in various areas before any removal work begins.
Surface hotspots will be removed, disposed of in bins and allowed to cool within the bin before being taken offsite. If water spray is used to cool stockpile within the bin, run-off cooling water will be contained on the site and/or disposed of appropriately.
What might I experience during the hotspot removal?
Odour: There is a lingering odour of smouldering organic material as well as decomposing organic material mixed with the glass. These emissions are expected to be in low concentrations and likely to be below toxic limits. The emissions are mainly made up of sulfur, so the smell is very strong and can travel far.
Dust: Operations on the site with the excavator moving waste may stir up dust. High volumes of vehicle movements across the site may also stir up dust.
Smoke: There is a risk that as the piles are excavated for cooling and removal there may be flare ups of smouldering materials. With fire response onsite at all time these fires will be quickly suppressed but some smoke still may be present.