Authorities urged to clean up ‘illegal’ Epping and Campbellfield chemical stockpiles amid fire fears
Robert Trantino said he is very concerned by the fire risk posed by the stockpiled materials. (ABC News: Vince Tucci)
A business neighbouring a site in Melbourne’s northern suburbs where “illegally” housed chemicals have been found is urging authorities to swiftly clear the stockpile due to fears it could catch fire and destroy his business.
- The EPA said the discovery of the sites is connected to its investigation into the West Footscray warehouse fire
- The Victorian Government is considering tougher penalties for “rogue operators” who illegally stockpile chemicals
- A business linked to the West Footscray blaze held a permit to import highly explosive gas cylinders for recycling
Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said on Wednesday it had discovered seven sites across Epping and Campbellfield where chemicals had been illegally stockpiled.
The EPA’s acting CEO, Damian Wells, said the stockpiles posed a serious risk to the nearby community and there would be “enormous” consequences if the stockpiles ignited.
He said the stockpiles were discovered as part of their investigation into the West Footscray warehouse fire, which spewed thick black smoke over the city’s west last year, sparking respiratory complaints from local residents and badly polluting a nearby creek.
One of the Campbellfield sites inspected by the EPA neighbours the cooking oil business of Robert Trantino.
Mr Trantino said he does not know what chemicals are being stored inside drums next to his business. (ABC News: Emma Younger)
Mr Trantino said he had a “very high” level of concern over the stockpile, which he estimated included up to 200 chemical drums, highly flammable nylon bags and was surrounded by a fence at risk of falling over.
He said his greatest concern was the chemicals in the drums could spark explosions, resulting in the loss of his stock of cooking oil, which was sold to businesses across Victoria and New South Wales.
“If this catches fire, there’s going to be huge black smoke … all the factories around here would suffer a great deal as well,” he said.
Call for urgent clean-up
Mr Trantino urged authorities to act swiftly to remove the hazardous materials.
“Especially today on a 40-degree day, this could go up at any time, it just takes one spark.”
Metal drums could be seen through the window of a property raided by the EPA on Devon Court in Epping. (ABC News: Michael Bennett)
He said he had seen no-one on the neighbouring site in the six months since he moved in to his building.
He said he contacted the local council, the City of Hume, on a number of occasions to try to get the site cleaned up, but was directed to speak to the owner of the property, who was not known to Mr Trantino.
The Victorian Government has ordered WorkSafe to review the fines and jail terms in place for “rogue operators” who illegally stockpile hazardous materials.
Businessman linked to West Footscray inferno and stockpiles
Businessman Graham Leslie White, who was the tenant of the West Footscray warehouse site at the time it caught fire, was also the director of a business which was located at an address in Campbellfield inspected by the EPA this week.
Mr White is also the sole director of a separate company which held a permit to import highly explosive gas cylinders for recycling at a Campbellfield address.
Valen Pty Ltd was granted the permit in August 2017 to import 600 tonnes of acetylene cylinders from New Zealand in order to reclaim the steel in the cylinders, and had received a similar permit in February 2016.
It is unclear whether any gas cylinders were imported by Valen under its most recent permit.
The company had been permitted to undertake steel reclamation at the Campbellfield site on Glenbarry Road as far back as December 2011, when EPA documents described the company’s “innovative process” of reclaiming the steel as globally unique.
Approval to use the site was granted by the EPA from December 2011 until mid-2012 in that instance.
Valen was given permission to recycle the gas cylinders at a warehouse on Glenbarry Road in Campbellfield. (ABC News: Michael Bennett)
When the ABC visited the Glenbarry Road reclamation site this week, workers at a nearby business said the site had been part of a truck yard for many years.
The Glenbarry Road site is not believed to be among the properties inspected by the EPA this week.
Firefighters who battled the West Footscray fire said a large number of gas containers were found inside the warehouse.
The ABC does not say the cylinders stored at the West Footscray site were ones related to the 2017 permit.
Mr White has declined numerous approaches from the ABC for comment, while an email and phone number for another worker in the business are no longer active.