'Multi-million' dollar lawsuit looms as EPA seize control of Stawell's hazardous rubber stockpile

ACTION REQUIRED: The EPA has stepped in to recycle the massive used tyre stockpile at Stawell and reduce the risk of fire. Picture: Boomerang Alliance

ACTION REQUIRED: The EPA has stepped in to recycle the massive used tyre stockpile at Stawell and reduce the risk of fire. Picture: Boomerang Alliance

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Environment Protection Authority Victoria seized control of Stawell’s notorious rubber stockpile on Wednesday. 

But the government agency has been threatened with a multi-million dollar Supreme Court lawsuit by the previous site owner, who said the EPA and CFA “forced” Used Tyre Recycling Corporation (UTRC) to spend “millions of dollars for no reason”. 

UTRC chief executive Matthew Starr also said they would be suing for “tortious interference in its business operations”.

EPA chief executive Nial Finegan said they stepped in to remove the tyres after no “obvious activity” to recycle the used tyres at the site for an extended period of time.

“It is EPA’s view that the stockpile is being handled in a manner by the owners that is likely to cause an environmental hazard,” he said. 

“We are taking action after repeated failure by the site’s owners to comply with EPA notices and a Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Protection Notice issued to reduce the risk of fire at the site to protect the community.

“As a result, EPA has used its powers under Section 62 of the Environment Protection Act 1970 to conduct the cleanup.”

Mr Starr claimed his company had to deal with significant red tape and “financially unrealistic demands” by the EPA before ownership of the tyre yard switched to Panama company Internet Marketing Solutions Corp on March 30. 

He also said the recent fire at Coolaroo Paper Recycling Plant forced the EPA into action.

“The EPA was finally forced to transition from a 'no money to clean-up problems - everyone else has to pay for our problems' to 'an unlimited open check book' to get things done within just two weeks,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, the EPA and CFA have deliberately destroyed the land that UTRC has a licence over, meaning that it is impossible for UTRC's globally acclaimed and patented Used Tyre Pyrolysis plant to be built in Stawell. 

“UTRC wishes the good people of Stawell the very best for the future with the tyre dump soon to be gone, and we're just sorry the 54 new full-time jobs will now be going to NSW, where our new plant is to be installed.

“Stay happy though, because after the tyre dump is gone, everyone should enjoy reading the stunning Supreme Court case details explaining to everyone what really happened during the past two years."

EPA chief executive Mr Finegan said they would be standing by the government agency’s statements issued regarding the Stawell tyre stockpile issue. 

“It is vital that the focus is kept on the safety of the local community and rectifying the risk the tyre stockpile poses,” he said.

“Every attempt has been made to find a solution within the regulatory parameters available and it is only after repeated failure by the owners of the tyre stockpile in Stawell to comply with EPA notices and with a CFA Fire Protection Notice, that has led EPA to take steps to take charge of the site and effect a clean-up.”

It is estimated about 8-10 trucks filled with tyres will leave the site six days a week and be sent to Melbourne for shredding.

Mr Finegan said air quality, firewater runoff into waterways and land contamination would be environmental impacts resulting from a tyre fire. 

“By removing this stockpile, EPA will remove this risk to both community and our environment,” he said. 

Once the tyres are shredded, they could be used throughout the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries. 

Mr Finegan said shredded tyres could even be used for athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres and road surfaces.

“A portion of these shredded tyres will also be used as tyre derived fuel, which is often shipped overseas to destinations that have the technology to use it,” he said. 

EPA has asked the community to take notice safety signage and to avoid the site while works are being undertaken. 

“There will be many trucks and pieces of heavy machinery equipment in operation throughout the entire process,” Mr Finegan said. 

“As the exact number of tyres on the site is unknown, it is difficult to determine how long it will take to reduce the tyre stockpile so it does not pose a huge environmental hazard.”

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