FOCUS AREA: STORMWATER – ELECTROPLATERS STRATEGY
Pollution in stormwater flows into our bays and rivers and affects recreational use and the natural ecology. Electroplating uses chemicals and heavy metals that, if not managed correctly, can pollute stormwater, and eventually, our natural waterways. As part of our program to reduce the pollution of stormwater EPA inspected 40 electroplaters over a three-month period. The industry was given notice of the inspections and information to help them comply with environmental standards. Thirty-nine remedial notices to improve environmental practices and infrastructure were issued covering two-thirds of the sites that were inspected. Following further investigation three Penalty Infringement Notices and one Official Warning were issued. EPA found that most operators were willing and able to manage their environmental risks once identified. Inspections will continue into 2014–15 as EPA continues its strategy to deter operators from breaking the law and encourage higher performance.
FOCUS AREA: STOCKPILING OF MATERIALS – TYRES STRATEGY
While some stockpiled materials are related to legitimate resource recovery, others can be a means by which a few operators avoid the cost of proper disposal. In 2013 –14, EPA focused on the stockpiling of waste tyres.
Inappropriately stored materials such as tyres can create a fire hazard. Once ignited, tyres are difficult to extinguish and can cause significant environmental, social and economic costs. Nearly 50,000 tonnes of waste tyres (including approximately six million waste car tyres) are unaccounted for and believed to be stockpiled or illegally dumped in 2012 –13 alone.
EPA surveyed Victoria’s councils for estimates of the number and size of tyre stockpiles in their areas, and together with the Victoria Fire Services (MFB/CFA) EPA undertook joint inspections of some known high-risk sites to better understand the scale and patterns of stockpiling of waste tyres in Victoria.
Given the scale of the issues identified, the Victorian government introduced the interim Waste Management Policy (Storage of Waste Tyres), which was declared on 29 April 2014, and applies for 12 months. The policy gives measures for operators to take to reduce their fire risk, clearly states the rule of waste tyre storage, and makes these rules enforceable by EPA enabling us to issue pollution abatement notices where operators are not meeting the requirements of the interim Waste Management Policy. EPA has also commenced investigation of longer-term regulations through a Regulatory Impact Statement.
FOCUS AREA: ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE OF LITTER AND WASTE – ILLEGAL DUMPING STRIKE FORCE
Illegal disposal of waste is an amenity, health and environmental hazard and means unscrupulous dumpers avoid landfill levies, paid by law-abiding citizens and businesses. Landfill levies fund projects to protect our environment.
EPA conducted 102 strategic inspections targeting construction and demolition sites and quarries. These inspections were primarily focused on understanding the business model and practices in these sectors and identifying poor operators. These businesses are often not directly regulated through statutory instruments, such as licences, therefore identifying and catching offenders requires alternative approaches. Inspections were conducted with key partners such as local councils, DSDBI, Victoria Police, Worksafe and other critical co-regulatory agencies and, where appropriate, engaged with site managers to educate them about their responsibilities.
EPA issued 119 remedial notices in total to address illegal dumping, far exceeding our target of 52 notices for the year. Many of these were in response to public reports of illegal dumping activities, however, strategic inspections of known offenders and high-risk sites were also undertaken, which resulted in ongoing investigations.
The Illegal Dumping Strike Force program has also: funded a one-year trial of high-quality aerial imagery; used covert surveillance to target dumpers; partnered with DEPI to better use intelligence data; and launched an online tool for the waste industry to anonymously report suspicious activity to tap into a wealth of knowledge about allegedly poor operators.
FOCUS AREA: RESIDENTIAL ENCROACHMENT ON CRITICAL INDUSTRIES
Increasing urban development in Victoria is leading to houses being built closer to existing industry. This can result in noise, dust, gases and odour from industry impacting the health and amenity of the local community. It can also affect the viability of industry, including facilities’ provision of critical services to the community that cannot be easily relocated or upgraded.
One of EPA’s larger interventions is Boral’s Ravenhall site which has been identified as a critical hub in the Statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan. The site contains a landfill, composter (operated by another company), an asphalt plant, a hard-rock quarry and a concrete plant.
In response to Boral’s plan to expand landfilling operations at this site, potential future residential development near the site, and the level of community concern about the site’s current environmental impacts, EPA implemented an encroachment pilot project. This project incorporated numerous activities, including comprehensive odour surveillance of the area, compliance activity and proactive work with the community and other parts of government. The project resulted in four notices being issued to operators, requiring them to manage their impact on the local community. The information from this project will be used to inform future planning on and around the site.