Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has begun proceedings against Internet Marketing Solutions Corp (IMSC) in the Supreme Court to recover the costs associated with removing an estimated one million tyres from a stockpile in Stawell.
EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson said the court has ordered IMSC to immediately pay EPA over $4.5 million and placed an injunction on the company to prevent it from selling the Stawell property where the tyres were stored.
“This is EPA’s first step in the process of recovering the costs that were incurred in removing the huge tyre stockpile that presented a great human health and environmental risk to Stawell and its surrounding communities,” Dr Wilkinson.
The case has now been adjourned to allow any future orders by the court to be made if required.
Dr Wilkinson said the process to remove the tyres began on 9 August 2017, when EPA decided that the stockpile’s owner had made little to no effort to comply with a Country Fire Authority (CFA) 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. 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,” Dr Wilkinson said.
Removal of the stockpile was a whole of Government effort led by EPA and included significant input from Northern Grampians Shire Council, CFA, Victoria Police, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and Department of Health and Human Services.
EPA also engaged private sector partners and local subcontractors to remove the stockpile.
Dr Wilkinson said that although tyres were not easy to ignite, once alight, extinguishing them would be a very difficult task.
“Tyres are made of compounds that can cause rapid combustion, including carbon, oil, benzene, toluene, rubber and sulphur. The risk in Stawell was compounded by size and configuration of the stockpile,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“In the event of a fire at the stockpile, we would have likely seen 7000 people evacuated from Stawell. A fire would also have impacted on the brand of Grampians tourism in areas such as the 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 local community and our environment,” Dr Wilkinson said.
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 5,000 EPUs must obtain a works approval before a facility is built as well as an EPA licence 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,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“Those that 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.”