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“We’re going tough on operators”: EPA identifies 27 high risk facilities after the third toxic factory fire in two years

The toxic factory fire in Campbellfield on Friday was the third major disaster to occur at a facility storing liquid waste in the past two years.

The Environmental Protection Authority has identified 27 high risk facilities across the state which store and treat liquid waste.

CEO of the EPA, Dr Cathy Wilkinson, and the EPA’s Chief Environmental Scientist, Dr Andrea Hinwood, joined Neil Mitchell in studio.

“These sort of events shouldn’t happen,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“We’re going tough on operators. They need to respect EPA licences and clean up their act,” she said.

The Campbellfield facility had previously been issued with a number of regulatory notices, and in mid-March factory operations were suspended after an EPA inspection found excessive storage levels on site.

Dr Wilkinson told Neil EPA regulatory action on the facility had been sufficient.

“In terms of our strong regulatory action, in this case we were aware of the site, we’d taken proactive inspections and we had issued a suspension,” she said.

Dr Hinwood told Neil that the impact of Friday’s fire on residents was minimal.

“The smoke plume was quite buoyant. It did impact the local industries in the area, but monitoring showed little impact in the residential area,” she said.

Toxic runoff from fighting the fire has flowed into Merlynston Creek, which is currently undergoing EPA testing.

The EPA has advised people to stay away from the creek until water testing is complete.

The EPA is due to be granted stronger powers in July 2020, and an electronic tracking system will also be introduced at that time.

“What we’ll have in a years time is better intelligence and data analytics… in the mean time we’ll make sure that we’re doing additional inspections and additional manual checks,” Dr Wilkinson said.

Press PLAY below to hear Neil’s full interview with Dr Cathy Wilkinson and Dr Andrea Hinwood.