EPA Victoria officers have inspected 10 industrial sites around Cowes in search of any threats to local waterways.

The inspections are part of a statewide program to resolve problems before they can cause a spill or let chemicals escape into stormwater drains, creeks and rivers.  More than 100 sites have been inspected across Victoria so far.

EPA Gippsland Regional Manager Jessica Bandiera says it’s about sensible preventative measures each business should take.

“Businesses around Cowes were cooperative and most of the issues we found could be fixed easily. The team gave compliance advice to nine businesses and will conduct follow up inspections at some of the sites,” Ms Bandiera  said.

“We also issued four remedial notices; each one is an instruction from EPA to take specific actions to fix a problem. They come with a set deadline and there’s no fine if the business complies,” she said.

“And I’m pleased to say that one of the businesses achieved a clean sheet and won’t need any follow up.”

Ensuring the health of local waterways is important for Traditional Owners and their cultural responsibility to care for Country, so the inspection teams often include advisors from local indigenous communities.

Typical issues found during the program’s inspections include:

  • The lack of a bund – a surrounding barrier that stops any spill from reaching a drain or leaving the property
  • The lack of proper storage, handling, and management systems for liquids
  • Inappropriate storage/handling of waste that might burn, like tyres and timber – there are size limits and minimum separation distances for stockpiles to limit the size and spread of fire
  • Wastewater and wash water escaping to stormwater drains
  • The lack of spill kits containing materials and equipment needed to contain a spill

A number of the businesspeople were unaware of the General Environmental Duty, which makes it every Victorian’s responsibility to take reasonable actions to prevent pollution.

The inspections target any site that can cause a spill, from concrete batching plants to chemical distributors, businesses offering vehicle and machinery servicing/repairs, chemical handling and a variety of other industrial activities.

“Stormwater drains empty into local waterways such as creeks and rivers, so it’s important that businesses know their responsibility to take all reasonable actions to prevent pollution,” Ms Bandiera said.

EPA has information online at epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/store-manage-liquids

There’s more information on the General Environmental Duty here:  epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/laws/laws-and-your-business/general-environmental-duty-for-businesses

Reviewed 28 February 2023