Current issues

Tackling chemical stockpiles and waste crime


EPA is working hard with our regulatory partners to disrupt major organised waste crime and take strong action against those operating outside the law.

We are increasing our inspections of licensed waste facilities as well as conducting intel-driven inspections of other premises. We are also investigating offences under the Environment Protection Act.

Recent chemical waste events

In the past year, EPA has responded to a series of chemical waste stockpiling and pollution incidents across Victoria, including:  

Waterways around the West Footscray Industrial fire
Campbellfield industrial fire
Kaniva.

What is EPA doing about chemical waste stockpiling

We are continuing to keep residents and the public informed about these pollution events, as well as the work involved in recovery.

We are collaborating with state services and council authorities to address these issues, including through our work with:

Modern responses to illegal waste burial

The investigation at the illegal waste burial site 15 kilometres south of Kaniva used an innovative technological approach. In a first for an Australian environmental regulator, EPA used ground penetrating radar (GPR). This was attached to a drone to survey the site. GPR is a nondestructive measurement technique, which uses electromagnetic waves in its detection. This allowed us to survey the area without disturbing the soil and environment unnecessarily.

Risks to human health and the environment from chemical waste stockpiling

EPA has been monitoring each of these chemical waste stockpiling events for risks to human health and the environment.

Stony Creek: most of the black sludge and contaminated water has been removed or contained by EPA, local government and Melbourne Water. In the wake of the fire the focus was on joint efforts to prevent or clean up the run off into local waterways. The public has been advised to avoid contact with the water, particularly if there is a visible oily sheen. Rainfall may further pollute the waterways by stirring up contaminated sediment. Odour could also cause people nearby to feel ill. Pet owners are encouraged to not allow their animals to swim in or drink the water.

Past results detected a range of chemical solvents and detergents washed into the creek:

  • phenol (an industrial chemical and cleaning product)
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (fire and soot by-products)
  • lighter petroleum hydrocarbon chemicals called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene)
  • PFAS, and
  • industrial solvents such as acetone and butanone.

Kaniva waste dump site: EPA is working with Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water Corporation (GWMWater) to monitor groundwater. With the data collected, EPA has not found any groundwater impacts. We will conduct further testing to ensure groundwater conditions are maintained and GWMWater will monitor the urban supply.

How to contact EPA

Should you have any specific questions relating to EPA actions relating to chemical waste stockpiling, email contact@epa.vic.gov.au.

Page last updated on 5 Dec 2019