A toxic waste clean-up in suburban Melbourne has only scratched the surface as authorities reveal a stockpile of hazardous and flammable chemicals much greater than first thought.
Eight warehouses across Campbellfield and Epping are thought to contain 19 million litres of toxic waste, WorkSafe Victoria revealed today.
It became clear there was significantly more waste material there than we first estimated,” WorkSafe spokesman Michael Coffey told ABC radio.
It was extremely difficult to estimate what the volume of the waste was in these warehouses because they were floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall stacked with containers and the atmosphere inside was not safe.”
The clean-up operation has already been going for six weeks and so far workers have removed about 800,000 litres of the waste, Mr Coffey confirmed.
Revised estimates of the quantity of chemicals is based on engineering drawings of the sites.
We know the substances inside are highly-flammable. We know there’s solvents, there’s paints, there’s oxides, there’s basically industrial waste Mr Coffey said.
Authorities fear the repeat of a fire at a West Footscray warehouse in August, when chemicals caught alight and posed a hazard to the community.
Our priority in this project is to get those chemicals out of those warehouses as quickly as possible,” Mr Coffey said, adding that WorkSafe is collaborating with a certified processor to handle the waste.
Investigations into the stockpiles continue and the penalties are tough he noted.
What we’re seeing at the moment is highly-organised operations that are actively trying to avoid … regulations.
Premier Daniel Andrews described the situation as challenging.
WorkSafe is doing exactly what it should be doing – checking and then making sure there’s corrective action he told reporters.
Our first thing is get the clean-up done. Then second to that, there’s about fines and penalties and how you recoup cost of that.