Fires spark call for action

The blaze at Norstar Steel Recyclers in Dohertys Road, Laverton North. (Fire Rescue Victoria)

Goya Dmytryshchak

Hobsons Bay councillors have called for the Environment Protection Authority to act in the wake of two industrial fires in eight days, just over the municipal border in Laverton North.

The two recent fires were at Norstar Steel Recyclers in Dohertys Road and InfraBuild Recycling (formerly OneSteel) in Fitzgerald Road, on January 4 and 11, respectively.

Last December, the NSW Environment Protection Authority fined InfraBuild Wire $45,000 over defects at its Newcastle site where large volumes of hazardous and corrosive solutions such as acids are used to make steel rods, wire and fencing products.

Norstar received more than $16,000 in fines after a fire at the recycling company’s Dandenong South plant in 2019 triggered an investigation.

Wetlands ward councillors Diana Grima and Matt Tyler said Hobsons Bay residents bore the brunt of the fires with “smoke filling our suburbs”.

“We are calling on the EPA for swift action in relation to these incidents to understand what happened and to enforce penalties strongly, where appropriate,” they said in a joint written statement.

“Safety regulations and compliance requirements need to be followed and they are there for a reason – to keep our people safe, and our air quality and local environment protected. They are also there to support local workers and make sure they get home safely.

“We would like to see all business operators acting responsibly by adhering to their obligations, and doing everything they can to protect our environment and public health.

“Local people deserve to see those causing the damage to be held accountable.”

The council is working with the EPA and WorkSafe in relation to the fires.

An EPA spokesperson said action had been taken to ensure any stockpiles met safety regulations and any contaminated firewater would not enter local waterways.

“EPA issued InfraBuild (OneSteel), 62 Fitzgerald Road, Laverton North, with a regulatory notice requiring the company to cease accepting combustible recyclable and waste material,” the spokesperson said.

“All firewater for the incident was prevented from leaving the site.

“EPA issued Norstar with an emergency direction requiring the company to remove firewater that was at risk of breaching onsite containment, and the company had complied by the following day.

“EPA onsite testing indicated that nearby Kayes Drain had not been affected by firewater.”

A WorkSafe spokesman said the statutory authority was making inquiries.

Norstar Steel Recyclers and Infrabuild Recycling were contacted for comment.