Duty holders called to clean up after West Footscray fire
WorkSafe Victoria and the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) have issued notices demanding the owners and occupiers of last year’s West Footscray fire site remove waste and chemicals from the site, contain any run-off and render any residual dangerous goods harmless. The appeal comes more than a year after the ‘suspicious’ factory fire, which sent toxic smoke across Melbourne’s western suburbs and led to chemical run-off in Stony Creek. The building is said to have contained acetone, acetylene and asbestos, among other materials.
WorkSafe Victoria and the EPA said the duty holders must comply with construction and asbestos regulations when cleaning up the site. This must be completed by August 2020, with a clean-up plan provided by February. EPA’s latest investigations show there are still aerosols, solvents and paint residues on site. Of an estimated 7–15 million cubic metres of waste to be cleaned up, around 7–10 million litres are estimated to be residual chemicals, including dangerous goods.
After the fire last year, WorkSafe Victoria’s Chief of Business Operations, Marnie Williams, said: “Dangerous chemicals pose a serious risk to the health and safety of everyone in the community. Those risks are the same regardless of whether the chemicals are at a workplace or on a private property with no employees.
“I would urge anyone who is operating any type of industrial site to take stock of the chemicals they have and ensure they are being stored and handled correctly, not just to avoid enforcement action, but for the safety of everyone.”
WorkSafe Victoria and the EPA will continue to work closely with all relevant authorities in regulating the clean-up and provided assurance that the community’s safety and protection of Stony Creek remains their priority.
The EPA will also continue regular environmental monitoring and work closely with Melbourne Water, Maribyrnong Council and the local community on the restoration and rehabilitation of Stony Creek. The EPA has provided $750,000 towards the implementation of the recently released Stony Creek rehabilitation plan.
Both agencies are pursuing regulatory investigations and will hold those responsible to account with the full force of the law. The government stands ready to step in if the duty holder fails to fulfil its obligations to clean the site, WorkSafe Victoria and the EPA concluded.
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