Experts in asbestos removal are calling for a state or national register or business tax breaks to dispose of hazardous material properly, in order to halt a worsening illegal dumping problem in Victoria.
Sites in Lara and Lillimur have become hotbeds for the practice, with an incident in Lillimur under investigation by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) after it caught fire in May and spewed toxic smoke across the region.
According to the EPA, illegal dumping is becoming more common in Victoria’s remote areas.
The environmental regulator plans to crack down on the potentially dangerous activity. It has created a new Waste Crimes Prevention Directorate to coordinate its efforts against waste crime in Victoria.
Industry experts such as Stephen Marett, the managing director of Grounds Maintenance Australia, also said that more needs to be done to prevent the illegal dumping of toxic waste.
Marett, whose company is helping remove the hazardous material at Lillimur, said that state and federal governments should also be incentivising good behaviour.
“It’s going to continue to happen unless the state or federal government provides some incentive for people to do the right thing, apart from being caught and prosecuted criminally, this will continue to happen,” he said. “People panic when they hear the word Asbestos and worry they can’t afford to remove it in a cost effective way.”
“Businesses like us are able to help but if this continued illegal dumping happens, we could see people unnecessarily exposed to these substances.”
Marett would like to see small cash incentives to encourage businesses to engage professional waste removalists. He also suggested a state-wide register to keep track of stockpiled asbestos so that state can coordinate the removal and disposal of such materials.
Newly appointed Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) CEO, Lee Miezis, said waste crime was one of his priorities for the north east of Victoria on his first visit to the region following his appointment.
Miezis said the Authority’s regional presence will be strengthened as new regulatory powers and systems improve EPA’s ability to detect and prevent pollution and also prosecute offenders where pollution occurred or even had the potential to occur.
The new Environment Protection Act that recently came into force has given the EPA far greater powers but also makes it everyone’s responsibility to prevent pollution before it occurs. This is a major step forward for all Victorians, said Miezis.
“The EPA has invested in a new EPA Waste Crimes Prevention Directorate to coordinate our efforts against waste crime across the state, and the community can expect to see more strong regulatory action,” he said. “We have seen examples of waste being illegally dumped with the potential to do great environmental harm. I believe the community has no tolerance for such actions and rightly expect EPA to take action wherever it is detected.”