$4.5m payback for Stawell tyres
Environment Protection Authority Victoria has started legal proceedings to recover costs associated with removing an estimated one-million car tyres from a stockpile in Stawell.
Authority chief executive Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the Supreme Court had ordered Internet Marketing Solutions to immediately pay the EPA $4.5-million.
She said the court has also placed an injunction on the company to prevent it from selling.
“This is the EPA’S first step in the process of recovering costs incurred in removing the huge tyre stockpile that presented a great human health and environmental risk to Stawell and its surrounding communities,” Dr Wilkinson said.
The case has been adjourned to allow future court orders if required.
Dr Wilkinson said the process to remove the tyres started on August 9, 2017, when EPA decided the stockpile owner had made little to no effort to comply with a Country Fire Authority fire prevention notice and three EPA notices.
“The EPA notices required the owner of the stockpile to reduce the risk of fire at the site and to segregate tyres into smaller piles,” she said.
“By not complying with these requirements, EPA believed the stockpile appeared to have been abandoned or was being handled in a manner that was likely to cause an environmental hazard.”
Removal of the stockpile involved EPA, Northern Grampians Shire Council, CFA, Victoria Police, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Gwmwater, Emergency Management Victoria and Department of Health and Human Services. EPA also hired private-sector partners and Wimmera subcontractors to remove the stockpile.
Dr Wilkinson said tyres, despite being hard to ignite, were hard to extinguish when on fire
“Tyres are made of compounds that can cause rapid combustion, including carbon, oil, benzene, toluene, rubber and sulphur,” she said.
“The risk in Stawell was compounded by size and configuration of the stockpile.
“In the event of a fire at the stockpile, we would have likely seen 7000 people evacuated from Stawell.
“A fire would have impacted on the brand of Grampians tourism in areas such as Great Western, Pyrenees and Grampians wine regions.
“The environmental impacts would have included air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways and land contamination.
“By removing this stockpile, EPA removed these risks to both the community and our environment.”
Dr Wilkinson said the proceedings should be a message to anyone storing a large stockpile of tyres.
“Under EPA regulations, businesses that store more than 40 tonnes or 5000 EPUS must obtain a works approval before a facility is built as well as an EPA licence to operate,” she said.
“Sites above the threshold might be issued with remedial notices by EPA requiring them to reduce their stockpiles to below 5000 EPU and, if applicable, modify stockpile arrangement due to fire risks.
“Those who do not comply with the guidelines can expect EPA to use the full force of its powers to address environmental and public health risk from illegally stored tyre stockpiles and to seek to recover any costs incurred if EPA steps in to remove the potential environmental hazard.”