Fire sparks call for action


Tara Murray

Two western suburbs advocates are among those calling for government action after a waste management fire in Brooklyn last week.

There have been at least eight factory, waste management or tip fires across the west and Hume since October.

The Kealba landfill has had underground fires burning continuously for more than a year.

Former LeadWest chief executive Craig Rowley and former state MLC member Colleen Hartland say enough is enough.

“It’s a long-running issue,” Mr Rowley said.

“It doesn’t matter which party has been in power at the time, they haven’t done enough clean-up of the west.

“The urgency to clean it [industry] up has never been greater.”

Mr Rowley said during his time with LeadWest, from 2010 to 2018, one of the biggest things raised by local councils was wanting a cleaner, greener and more liveable western metropolitan area.

“We were constantly talking about it with the other tiers of government, about the investment needed in the west to make it cleaner and greener.

“It just seems that it is taking a long time to get there.”

Mr Rowley said an Environment Protection Act, which changes how the Environment Protection Authority regulates pollution, waste and contamination in Victoria, had been delayed for 12 months.

“What about all the communities here, we’ve been waiting for so long, to have confidence to be able to breath fresh air. Confidence that our creeks aren’t going to be polluted.”

He suggests forming a steering committee which would include the EPA, WorkSafe, MFB and council representatives.

“Questions could be asked about what is going on with the effort to implement the new act? What is going on with cleaning up the operations at business, x, y, z?

“I don’t think questions are being asked on Spring Street as often as they should.”

He also proposed government funding to help bring old industrial estates up to the 21st century and the introduction of better air quality monitoring systems, like those being used in the Latrobe Valley.

Ms Hartland, is a member of the Facebook group Anti-Toxic Waste Alliance which was set up after the West Footscray warehouse fire which spewed toxic fumes across the western suburbs for days in August 2018.

She said the group, a non-political alliance of community groups, organisations and individuals, wants action.

“There’s been a spat of these fires,” she said. “There’s been three in the last 10 days.

“The EPA and the state government don’t seem to be taking it seriously. I’ve been involved with this issues for longer than I would like to admit.”

Ms Hartland said the group wanted more regulation on industrial sites, clear information about when the EPA is called in and when and for how long air quality equipment is set up.“

She has also called for the act to be introduced.

Fire probed : Page 3