The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) welcomes the decision of the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TASCAT) in relation to the regulation of the Rocherlea site of Recycal Pty Ltd (Recycal).
Recycal operates a metal recycling business and has stockpiled large quantities of unsorted waste metal and shredder floc (the by-product of processing scrap metal using a shredder to separate and sort metals from non-metal material). Shredder floc contains shredded particles of foam, rubber and plastics and is highly combustible.
On 7 February 2022 a fire broke out in the shed where the shredder floc was stored. The toxic smoke required an air quality warning to be issued to nearby properties and the fire continued to smoulder in the stockpile over several days. A large quantity of firewater was needed to douse the fire. This water flowed through the floc and metal stockpiles, becoming contaminated with heavy metals and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) before discharging onto a neighbouring private property and into an irrigation dam.
Immediate steps were taken to control and dispose of the contaminated water. However, stormwater discharging from the site continued to show concerning levels of contaminants over the following months, and it was apparent that better management of the environmental risks at the site was required.
In April 2022 the Director, EPA issued two Environment Protection Notices (EPN) to prevent Recycal from discharging any water from their site, and to require a reduction of the stockpiles, testing of the shredder floc, and a stormwater management plan to be prepared, amongst other measures. Recycal lodged appeals in respect to both EPNs with TASCAT. They argued that the additional conditions were “ultra vires, uncertain, unnecessary, unreasonable, serves no useful purpose and should be deleted”.
TASCAT issued their determination on 4 January 2023. The arguments of Recycal were not accepted by the Tribunal who noted the potential for environmental harm from contaminated discharge or a further fire at the site. None of the conditions were deleted. An extension of time for compliance with the conditions was granted.
The EPA remains committed in ensuring compliance of environmental legislation. Pollutants can cause environmental harm and can also have longer-term impacts on our waterways.
A copy of the decision is available upon request to the EPA or TASCAT.