Brimbank council is calling for a zero tolerance approach from the state government for illegal storage and dumping of industrial and hazardous waste.

It follows a major fire at a West Footscray factory in 2018, which led to the discovery of large stockpiles of toxic chemicals in warehouses in Epping and Campbellfield.

Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve said the council worked hard to prevent similar stockpiles but needed government help.

“Unfortunately, the measures currently in place to prevent this illegal activity are not sufficient,” Cr Congreve said.

“Rogue operators have continued the illegal storage of industrial and hazardous waste. As a result our community has been exposed to dangerous toxic fires, such as what happened late last year just across the Brimbank border.

“Council does its best to take a hard-line approach … but we cannot tackle the issue on our own.

“The challenges faced are often complex and resource-intensive. Councils lack enforcement powers, which means it is difficult for us to act swiftly and impose stronger penalties. This is a statewide problem and it needs a statewide solution.”

The council will write to the Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, Environment Protection Authority chief executive Dr Cathy Wilkinson, and WorkSafe Victoria chief executive Clare Amies, to advocate for a zero tolerance approach.

Cr Virginia Tachos raised the issue as a notice of motion at the recent council meeting, and called for a pilot program that assigns an EPA officer to each council to become a permanent arrangement.

“The loopholes that allow rogue operators to go undetected must be closed. Mitigation and prevention has a bigger impact than cleaning up afterwards,” Cr Tachos said.

“One important step would be for the state government to make the Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment [OPLE] program permanent.

“We’re asking the state government to continue funding the OPLE program as it has so much potential to have a big impact.”