EPA moves in to remove tyre threat
Environment Protection Authority Victoria is removing a controversial stockpile of car tyres at a site on Saleyards Road, Stawell, based on community safety concerns.
EPA chief executive Nial Finegan said the authority believed the lack of obvious activity at the site ‘for an extended period of time’ suggested it had been abandoned or owners were handling it in a manner likely to cause an environmental hazard.
“EPA has taken this action after repeated failure by the site’s owners to comply with EPA notices and a Country Fire Authority fire-prevention notice issued to reduce the risk of fire at the site to protect the community,” he said.
“As a result, EPA has used its powers under Section 62 of the Environment Protection Act 1970 to conduct the clean-up.”
Mr Finegan has asked the community take notice of safety signs and avoid the site.
“There will be many trucks and pieces of heavy machinery equipment in operation throughout the process of removing the tyres,” he said.
Mr Finegan said because the exact number of tyres on the site was unknown, it was difficult to determine how long it would take to reduce the stockpile to a point where it was no longer a ‘huge’ environmental hazard.
“Vehicle tyres are made of compounds that can cause rapid combustion, including carbon, oil, benzene, toluene, rubber and sulphur. Although tyres are not easy to ignite, once alight, extinguishing them can be very difficult. The risk is compounded by the current size and configuration of the stockpile,” he said.
“The environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire are many, including air quality, firewater runoff into waterways and land contamination. By removing this stockpile, EPA will remove this risk to both the community and our environment.”
Mr Finegan said to allow for construction of suitable access roads for trucks and heavy machinery involved in reducing the stockpile, some vegetation had been lawfully removed.
“It is estimated that about eight to 10 trucks filled with tyres will leave the site six days a week and be sent to Melbourne for shredding,” he said.
“As soon as tyres are shredded, they can be used throughout construction, manufacturing and automotive industries. The end products of these are many and varied but could include athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres and road surfaces. A portion of these shredded tyres will also be used as tyre-derived fuel, which is often shipped overseas to destinations that have the technology to use it.”
EPA is working with the support of agencies including Northern Grampians Shire Council, CFA, Emergency Management Victoria and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and will continue to provide the community with updates.
A tyre re-tread company operated by Motorway Tyres, which went into receivership in August, 2008, created an original stockpile at the site. At the time it was estimated there were one to two million tyres on site. EPA officers moved onto the site on Wednesday last week.
Northern Grampians Shire Council mayor Tony Driscoll said the council would provide any necessary support to the EPA and other stakeholders in the clean-up process to guarantee the safety of the Stawell community.
“Northern Grampians Shire Council has worked closely with EPA, CFA and the State Government in order to achieve what we believe is a satisfactory outcome to what has been a long and arduous process,” he said.
“Reducing the fire risk to the Stawell community and protecting the environment is our primary focus.
“Both the EPA and the CFA are to be applauded for their commitment in helping us reach a resolution to this issue, which has been made even more difficult by continued inaction from the site’s owners. Throughout this process, the health and safety of our residents has been our major concern and that will continue to be the case as the site clean-up continues.”
People can visit www.epa.vic.gov.au or call 1300 372 842 For more information about the clean-up process.
• The owner of the stockpile had attempted to stop EPA from removing the tyres from the site at an injunction hearing but the court found in EPA’S favour.