THE company and director who took over the 9500-tonne Stawell tyre stockpile and failed to reduce its fire hazard has been ordered to pay almost $440,000 in fines and costs.
Used Tyre Recycling Corporation Pty Ltd this week was found guilty in the Stawell Magistrates' Court of two counts of failing to comply with an EPA notice.
The corporation was convicted and fined $400,000 and ordered to pay costs of $2913.30.
Watch the EPA's timelapse of the tyre stockpile clean-up effort:
Used Tyre Recycling Corporation's sole director Matthew Starr pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with an EPA notice, and was fined $20,000 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $16,555.93.
The court heard Used Tyre Recycling Corporation bought the Saleyards Road property in June 2015, when there were already about 1.5 million tyres on site and an EPA notice to prepare an emergency management plan already existed.
Watch the EPA's drone footage:
In August 2015, EPA issued Used Tyre Recycling Corporation with a further notice requiring it to cease accepting tyres and reconfigure the stockpile into smaller piles with a minimum five-metre separation.
Used Tyre Recycling Corporation received an extension on the notice but transferred the property to a company registered in Panama the day before the new deadline.
In September 2017, EPA took over the site and removed 9500 tonnes of tyres and tyre waste during a nine-week clean-up operation.
EPA chief executive Cathy Wilkinson said the orders sent a strong message.
"If UTRC thought they would absolve themselves of responsibility for this stockpile by offloading the property without telling EPA, they were wrong," she said.
"According to UTRCs business plan acquiring the Stawell site would make them 'instantly successful and disruptive to the tyre recycling industry'.
"Instead it was a protracted failure and disruptive to the community.
"This case should be a warning to all Victorians that get rich quick schemes can and often do backfire and it is the community which suffers.
"EPA will rigorously pursue and hold to account those who put our environment and communities at risk by disregarding EPA's orders.
"Tyre stockpiles pose a significant risk because if they catch fire they create toxic fumes and can't be easily extinguished."
Dr Wilkinson said EPA stepped in to clean up the stockpile to ensure community safety.
"UTRC repeatedly failed to comply with the orders to reduce the site's fire risk," she said.
"EPA is committed to being a risk-based regulator which proactively works to empower businesses and the community to comply with environmental regulations and delivers significant penalties to those who don't.
"From July 1, 2020 EPA's new Act will take effect, which will introduce Australia's first legally-enforceable general environmental duty which will put the onus on all Victorians to reduce risks to the environment.
"The new legislation will also modernise EPA's inspection and inquiry powers and introduce stronger fit and proper person requirements which will mean undesirable operators can be prevented from holding permits and licences and undertaking certain activities."