by Alexandra Laskie, The Age
Fire risks and storage issues have been identified at a second site owned by the recycling company at the centre of a major toxic blaze burning for four days in Melbourne’s north.
The Environment Protection Authority discovered a “backlog of unsorted waste” at SKM Recycling’s Laverton North plant on Friday.
More than 100 households were told to evacuate on Thursday night as fire at the company’s Coolaroo plant took hold, sending acrid smoke across Melbourne’s north.
EPA Victoria, Wyndham Council and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade inspected SKM Recycling’s Laverton North plant on Friday to “hold SKM to account” and assess potential fire hazards and stormwater contamination at the recycling centre in Gilbertson Road.
Discoveries at the Friday inspection of a “backlog of unsorted waste” at the facility have led the EPA to serve SKM three notices, starting with demands for a temporary sorting line to clear the build-up of waste.
The company is now required to provide the EPA with details of waste volumes it has accepted, processed and sold at Laverton North, and to verify claims it has made about market demand for sorted recycling materials.
The EPA has also demanded safety measures be installed to protect stormwater from runoff from unwashed rubbish.
EPA chief executive Nial Finegan said: “The EPA is committed to holding SKM, and other operators of similar sites, to account”.
He said EPA staff met with SKM company director Robert Italiano at Laverton on Friday “to gain an understanding of waste movements”, and warned that its plants in Geelong and Hallam would also be inspected “to determine if there are similar storage issues and fire risks”.
The fire at SKM’s recycling plant in Coolaroo continues to smoulder and is not expected to be fully extinguished for “several days”, an MFB spokeswoman said.
SKM’s Coolaroo plant services 14 councils in Victoria and processes more than 500 tonnes of cardboard, plastic, glass, paper and aluminium each weekday. Its Laverton North facility is one of two transfer stations used for transporting recyclables from the local area to Coolaroo for processing.
It is unclear whether the Laverton North site would continue accepting waste on Monday.
SKM was unable to be contacted for comment.
For the latest air quality data, from both the incident and for the rest of Victoria, see www.epa.vic.gov.au/EPAAirWatch