Town’s tyre pile to go
The Victorian Government has stepped in, allocating $1.5 million to remove a dangerous, risky tyre dump in Numurkah, capable of causing what authorities describe as a ‘‘catastrophic’’ fire in the town.
The 500 000 tyres sitting at the site known as the Numurkah tyre pile will be removed during the next 10 weeks by the Environment Protection Authority.
Numurkah will become ‘‘stockpile free’’ by late summer. CFA crews will monitor the removal operation to make sure any fires were avoided.
At a town community meeting last week, Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio made the announcement to multiple rounds of applause from town residents.
Ms D’Ambrosio and the EPA said tyre stockpiles would now be a thing of the past in Victoria.
‘‘(The Numurkah tyre pile) has presented a significant risk to the health of the community . . . and also the environment,’’ she said. ‘‘That stops today.’’ The Numurkah site has posed an extreme threat to the town during a number of years now.
After many years of legal proceedings, Moira Shire Mayor Libro Mustica said it was a concern the council and town could finally leave behind.
The tyres would be taken to an EPA-licensed facility in Melbourne to be processed — shredded and recycled into fuel or road sealing products — within 14 hours of arriving.
A lot of time, effort and various court challenges had led to government intervention, Ms D’Ambrosio said.
She said the owners had been offered every opportunity to do the right thing.
But she said government was stepping in, given the damage caused by a potential fire being ‘‘absolutely catastrophic’’ and the ‘‘unacceptable risk’’ the site created.
‘‘New rules are now in place, so this never happens again,’’ Ms D’Ambrosio said.
She said the town could rest easy, paid tribute to State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed for her advocacy on the issue, and thanked the community for staying on the case to get the site removed.
The EPA will use Environment Protection Act powers to enter the site and remove the tyres, in partnership with the Moira Shire Council.
For the next 10 weeks, eight trucks a day, five days a week would help remove the half million tyres; estimated at 5000 tonnes worth of tyres.
Shredded tyres can be used throughout the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, or help construct athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfaces.
‘‘Tyres are made of compounds that can cause rapid combustion, including carbon, oil, benzene, toluene, rubber and sulphur,’’ a government statement read.
A CFA fire risk assessment of the Numurkah site found a fire there would be catastrophic.
Moira Shire chief executive Mark Henderson said the EPA’s decision to use its powers to address the public and environmental risks associated with the site was welcome news.
‘‘For the past six years we have pursued all legal avenues to force the site owner to remove the tyres,’’ he said.
‘‘The EPA, council and the Numurkah community are very aware of the public health, safety and environmental risks associated with the site.
‘‘These concerns are underscored by the CFA’s recent fire risk assessment that rated the risk of fire as extreme and the consequences as catastrophic.’’
Cr Mustica said the site’s removal was absolutely 100 per cent urgent, especially with the weather now hitting 40°C, it cannot be more urgent than what it is now.
Ms D’Ambrosio said the government had heard ‘‘loud and clear’’ that such stockpiles should never be allowed to accumulate.
‘‘Our government made changes to regulations and rules, so that this stockpile could never be allowed into the future,’’ she said.
She described the Numurkah stockpile as the last of those legacy tyre stockpiles.
‘‘Our government made changes to the regulations that require licensing and works approval for any stockpile of tyres that go beyond the 5000 number,’’ Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Mr Henderson said council would securely fence the site, start works to make sure safe truck access to and from the site in accordance with EPA regulatory requirements.
‘‘Our very rough estimates suggest the site could be clear by late summer — but we just don’t know what we may find in among the tyres,’’ he said.
‘‘We will continuously monitor noise, dust and other factors that may impact on local residents — but we also hope the community will recognise the works as a short-term inconvenience that will eliminate a significant health and safety risk for the community.’’
EPA chief executive Cathy Wilkinson said appropriate fire mitigation would be put in place through the clean-up, while any vermin and snakes found in the operation would be appropriately dealt with.
Ms D’Ambrosio said the ‘‘sense of relief’’ could be heard following the announcement from people who had ‘‘lived with this’’.
‘‘Numurkah can return to being a lovely part of Victoria that doesn’t have that terrible extreme threat of catastrophic fire hanging over them.’’
So many tyres: The Numurkah tyre dump from the air.
Inspection: the dump. Environment Protection Authority representatives at