Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is warning farmers that a momentary mistake when burning off can be costly for the environment and the landholder.
EPA South West Region Manager Carolyn Francis said it’s important to think twice before throwing anything extra onto the pile when burning off.
“It can be tempting to add household or farm waste such as silage wrap, chemical containers or old tyres to burn piles just to get rid of them,” Ms Francis said. “These items don’t burn properly and produce large amounts of smoke.”
“The environmental impacts of burning the wrong things can be more than just a bit of smoke; you could be looking at toxic air pollution, residue running off into waterways and chemical contamination that persists in the soil,” she said.
“Some of these things are best sent to a properly managed landfill, and there are recycling options for common farm waste items such as tyres, silage wrap and plastic chemical drums.”
Silage wrap, some chemical containers and tyres can be recycled to produce items such as building and fencing materials and floor matting. Information on waste disposal and recycling can be found at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au or through your local council website.
Fallen trees or any other natural wood being burnt should be as dry as possible and not freshly cut, to keep down the volume of smoke, and farmers should make sure they have any relevant council or CFA permits. Timber that has been used in a building, furniture or other manufactured product must not be burnt because it is likely it has been chemically treated.
“In farming areas, your local Council and CFA Brigade are part of the community, and it’s the community that suffers if you pollute the air, the soil or local waterways with things that shouldn’t go onto a fire,” Ms Francis said.
“Anyone burning off should also pay attention to the weather, making sure they minimise the impact of smoke on neighbouring properties and have sufficient water ready to extinguish the fire if conditions change or the smoke gets out of hand,” she said.
EPA officers can issue a fine of close to $8,000 for the burning of anything outside the normal range of things like timber and crop stubble.
“Most farmers understand the importance to their livelihood and their community of preventing contamination of the soil, water and air around them, and EPA prefers to look upon a fine as a last resort,” Ms Francis said.
“That is why we are reminding farmers to think twice about what goes onto the pile when burning off, and help to protect the environment and the wellbeing of your farm, your family and your neighbours,” she said.
EPA urges people to report suspected pollution to the EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or at www.epa.vic.gov.au