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Firefighters union calls for tougher legislation on ‘death trap’ toxic dumps

3AW Mornings

The United Firefighters Union has called on Premier Daniel Andrews to impose tougher penalties, including jail time, on unlicensed toxic dump operators.

The union’s calls come as the Environmental Protection Authority reveals that this month’s Campbellfield factory fire and the factory fire in West Footscray last August are linked.

United Firefighters Union secretary, Peter Marshall, told 3AW’s Tony Jones fires at illegal waste dumps are “a death trap”.

“The current legislation is deficient,” Mr Marshall said.

“These perpetrators … at the very worst they’ll get a fine.”

Mr Marshall said illegal dump operators are bypassing procedures which alert firefighters about what substances are inside the factories.

“It is an unavoidable risk for firefighters to be exposed to a toxic plume. It is just not acceptable when that unavoidable risk is generated through a criminal activity of avoiding the regulation that gives the firefighter the heads up,” he said.

“We want specific legislation to make those persons responsible and accountable for causing serious injury.”

Firefighters who fought the Campbellfield and West Footscray fires are reportedly suffering with skin rashes, mild headaches, migraines, head colds, pneumonia, flu-like symptoms, itchy and weeping eyes, blood noses, respiratory problems, and debilitating fatigue as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.

A 2011 senate inquiry found that levels of occupational cancer among firefighters are three-to-five times that of the normal population.

A Victorian government review into resource recovery facilities is currently underway.

The Environmental Protection Authority has announced a crackdown on illegal chemical waste storage.


3AW Mornings