Current issues

Stawell tyre stockpile cleanup


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Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is supporting the removal of a stockpile of tyres from a site on Saleyards Road, Stawell, to ensure the safety of the local community.

While this work is being undertaken, which will see the removal of an estimated one million tyres, EPA asks that the community please take notice of any safety signage and avoid the site as there will be trucks and heavy machinery in operation.

Rubber 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 can be very difficult.

The environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire are many, including air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways and land contamination. By removing this stockpile, EPA will remove this risk to both community and our environment.

Further Information

Q and A on Stawell tyre stockpile cleanup + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is happening at the Stawell tyre stockpile site? Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is under taking the removal of a stockpile of inappropriately stored tyres from a site on Saleyards Road, Stawell, to ensure the safety of the local community.

    While this work is underway, to remove the stockpile (estimated one million tyres) EPA asks that the community to please take notice of any safety signage and avoid the site as there will be trucks and heavy machinery in operation. Access to the site and adjoining property will be restricted for safety reasons.
  • What are the risks posed by having a tyre stockpile? Although tyres are not easy to ignite, once alight, extinguishing can be very difficult.

    The environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire are many, including air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways and land contamination. By removing this stockpile, EPA will remove this risk to both community and our environment.

    While tyres are stable and not considered to be a hazardous material, if there is a fire, the tyre product breaks down into hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals, and oil, generating a great deal of smoke.

    There are also other health issues associated with tyres such as the creation of habitats for vermin like rats and mosquitos.
  • Why is EPA taking this action in relation to the Stawell site?

    EPA’s primary concern is the safety and welfare of the Stawell community, surrounding communities. The stockpile presents an unacceptable fire and environmental risk.

    Continued inaction from the tyre stockpile owners is unacceptable given the risk the stockpile poses to community and the environment.

    The various owners have been given every opportunity to comply with their legal and regulatory obligations but failed to comply or take material steps to properly manage site risks.

    As there has been no obvious activity at the site for an extended period of time, it is EPA’s view that the stockpile appears to have been abandoned or is being handled in a manner by the owners that is likely to cause an environmental hazard. As such EPA is taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk.

  • What regulatory process did EPA go through before arriving at this decision?

    The tyre stockpile near Stawell has been a known risk for some time. CFA assessed it as a very high fire risk that presents social, environmental and economic risks for the people of Stawell.

    On 10 May 2017 CFA served a Fire Prevention Notice (FPN) on the owner of the stockpile requiring the company to: 

    • By 31 July 2017, secure the premises, install appropriate safety equipment and implement proper safety procedures. 
    • By 30 September 2017, configure the tyre stockpile into safer and more readily manageable piles and begin shredding of the stockpile. Shredded tyres to be appropriately stored. 
    • By 30 November 2017, significantly reduce the tyre pile, have lower piles and sufficient distances between piles. Shredded processed tyres were to be stored in sealed containers.

    The FPN followed three statutory notices issued by EPA that required a reduction in the tyre stockpile, stockpiles to be separated and measures taken to reduce the risk of fire. The CFA has confirmed that the duty holder has not complied with requirements of the FPN due by 31 July 2017.

    EPA also issued the company with a notice of contravention after it failed to comply with some of the requirements of the statutory notices. A notice of contravention is issued where there is a major ongoing contravention and further enforcement action planned.

    The issuing of a notice of contravention indicates that EPA considers any further breach a serious offence and signals the commencement of a comprehensive investigation by EPA.

  • Under which regulations did EPA act? EPA has exercised its powers under Section 55 (Powers of an Authorised Officer) of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (the Act) and taken immediate steps to secure the site.

    EPA has also, under Section 62 of the Act, commenced a clean-up.
  • The Stawell tyre site has existed for decades, why has this just happened now?

    The failure of those in control of the site to meet their obligations under various EPA and CFA notices has led to EPA taking the steps it has today to reduce community risk.

  • How long will it take to make the stockpile safe?

    Removal of this many tyres will take time, but must be done to ensure the Stawell community can be confident the risk from a tyre fire at this stockpile has been removed.

    EPA with the great support of council has used the last week to take the necessary steps to ensure safe vehicle access to the site and install fire trucks.

    Works are expected to take a number of months and will see up to 10 trucks a day leave the site, six days a week.

  • What happens if the Stawell tyre stockpile catches fire? Emergency management agencies have developed an incident response plan, which builds on existing arrangements to manage risks and consequences associated with a fire at the Stawell tyre stockpile.

    The comprehensive plan covers processes for managing communications, evacuation, relief centres, traffic management, smoke impacts, health and medical response requirements and environmental impacts.

    Key agencies including the CFA, EMV, DHHS, DELWP, VicPol and the Northern Grampians Shire Council developed the Regional Consequence Plan and updated Operational Response Plans.

    Other agencies including EPA, VicRoads, Ambulance Victoria, MFB, Bureau of Meteorology, Wimmera CMA, Powercor, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, DEDJTR, Aboriginal Victoria and Tourism Victoria have provided input into the plans as required.
  • How did the tyres get there in the first place? A tyre retread company operated by Motorway Tyres previously owned the site. Motorway Tyres went into receivership in August 2008. At the time, it is estimated there were one to two million tyres on site.
  • Could this happen again somewhere else? No. In 2015, EPA introduced waste tyre storage regulations to reduce the risk of fires. Properties storing more than 40 tonnes or 5,000 Equivalent Passenger Units (EPUs) must obtain an EPA Works Approval before a facility is built or modified as well as an EPA licence to operate.
  • How many stockpiles are there in Victoria and who is managing these? There are only two large, rural legacy stockpiles in Victoria, in Stawell and Numurkah.

    In addition to these two large, rural legacy stockpiles, there are a number of other tyre stockpiles across Victoria that EPA is aware of, although not all of these sites are above the 5,000 EPU licensing threshold.

    Under EPA regulations, businesses that store more than 40 tonnes or 5,000 EPUs must obtain a works approval before a facility is built as well as an EPA license to operate. Sites above the threshold may 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.
  • What had the owner proposed to do with the tyres? The owner aimed to establish a pyrolysis plant on the Stawell site. Shredded tyres are treated through thermal exposure without oxygen. This means that there is no combustion as part of the pyrolysis treatment. The gas created is however combusted to provide a) heat for the pyrolysis and b) heat for the distillation. The distillation is done to remove sulphur and separate the oils into diesel and gasoline. As required by EPA, the company put in a works approval application to install a pyrolysis plant to process/treat tyres at the site.
  • Why was a Works Approval not approved by EPA?

    Local and Victorian government agencies worked with the company in support of the company’s plans for a pyrolysis plant. This support included regular communication about what the owner needed to do to progress its plans for the site adjacent to its property. The initial proposal did not provide sufficient information for EPA to determine environmental impacts. EPA requested further information on the Works Approval application to adequately assess potential impact to environment, this information was requested by EPA on several occasions and was not provided to EPA by the proponent. Due to a lack of information the application was not accepted by EPA. Works approvals are a critical element of the EPA's work to ensure the ongoing protection of health and environment.

  • What is a tyre composed of? 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 can be very difficult. Composition can vary widely and across tyre types (eg. truck/tractor, car, motorcycle).
  • What are the process that tyres go through in being recycled for other uses? Tyres can be processed at high temperatures to create a Tyre Derived Fuel (TDF) in an oil form which is then used as an alternative fuel source.

    They can also be chipped or shredded and the resulting smaller parts used in a variety of ways including being added with other fuels in boilers and furnaces that operate at very high temperatures in the manufacture of products like steel and concrete.
  • What are the main products that can be made from recycled tyres? There are many products that go into the making of a tyre so reclaiming some of them for re-use has environmental advantages.

    The main product reclaimed from old tyres is a fuel known as Tyre Derived Fuel or TDF. TDF has properties that make it environmentally viable as an alternative to coal or other fuel oil. While it burns at very high temperature producing energy at higher and cleaner rates than coal, TDF may not be as cost competitive against some forms of coal even though it has environmental advantages.

    As a fuel TDF can be in a liquid form as an oil but also as chips which are fed into kilns and boilers operating at high temperatures such as those producing cement.

    Tyres can also be chipped and resulting ‘crumbed’ rubber chips go into other products such as playground surfacing or remoulded into new rubber products.

    Chipped or shredded tyres are also used in the manufacture of rubberised playground surfaces, running tracks, brake pads and road surfaces or even new tyres.

    Construction also uses tyres sometimes using chipped tyre products to replace aggregate in concrete.
  • What is the market for recycled tyre products like? There is an oversupply of end of life tyres. It is estimated that ten percent of end of life tyres are recycled for purposes such as construction, road paving, playground paving and concrete aggregate. A further 28 per cent is used as Tyre Derived Fuel (TDF - shredded and chipped) for use in Asian cement/steel/ paper mills producers especially in Korea and Japan.

    Cement production requires kilns to burn at very high temperatures making chipped and shredded tyres an ideal fuel because of its high energy output. However, for environmental safety reasons kilns must be appropriately fitted with scrubbers to ensure emissions are controlled.
  • What happens to old tyres if they can’t be recycled? End of life (EOL) tyres that aren’t recycled go into stockpiles and landfill. Tyre waste is a growing problem as there are growing numbers of vehicles on our roads, tyres do not break down, they occupy more space than their overall mass due to their shape (a hollow circle) and the market for their recycled products does not consumer all waste tyres. There is an estimated 56 million Equivalent Tyre Units generated each year.
  • Where are the tyres going?

    EPA has engaged Tyrecycle to assist in removing the tyres and ensuring they are shredded and recycled as crumb or tyre derived fuel.

Page last updated on 10 Aug 2017