The owners of a tyre dump in northern Victoria have been ordered to pay almost $2 million to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the removal of half a million tyres stockpiled in a paddock, which posed a ‘catastrophic’ fire risk to the community.
- The owner of a tyre yard in Victoria who was jailed last year following a stoush with the EPA has been ordered to pay clean-up costs
- The EPA took 10 weeks to clear the yard, which had been deemed a serious fire risk
- Concerned residents say they are relieved that the site has been cleared, and that they hope the State will be able to recover its costs
The Supreme Court ordered the Sidebottom Group to foot the bill of the massive clean-up undertaken by the EPA, which removed a 5,000-tonne stockpile at Numurkah.
The Victorian Government sent a letter of demand to the company for payment of the costs by July last year, but had not received payment from the defendant.
It came after the Government dipped into $1.5 million of public money to clean up the tyres after exhausting all other legal options.
The EPA took over and had cleared the stockpile by February last year — a job that took 10 weeks.
EPA executive director Mark Rossiter said the settlement sent a strong message to the industry that it must comply with regulations.
“It proves illegal activities don’t pay, as it would have been much cheaper to comply with regulations in the first place,” Mr Rossiter said.
The order to pay back clean-up costs comes after Sidebottom director Shanan James Sidebottom was sentenced to four months’ jail for criminal contempt in October 2018.
At the time, Supreme Court Justice Rita Zammit said Mr Sidebottom had tried to lay blame with others and described his actions as a “perverse refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the court”.
Fire could have been ‘catastrophic’
The Court heard the Sidebottom Group started collecting tyres in 2007 after the Moira Shire Council granted a permit for the site.
The project initially promised jobs and security for the small community but by 2013 the land and infrastructure had not been developed and tyres began to pile up.
The council initially held high hopes for the development until a fire broke out at the site in 2013, sparking a legal battle to have the tyres removed.
In June 2018 the CFA assessed the potential consequences of a fire at the premises as “catastrophic” and the likelihood of a fire at the premises to be “likely”, resulting in an overall risk rating of “extreme”.
As a result of this assessment, Mr Rossiter said the stockpile had created an unacceptable risk to the environment and local community.
“The environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire are many, including air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways, and land contamination,” he said.
“During a fire, the tyre product breaks down into hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals and oil, generating a great deal of smoke.”
According to court documents, the defendant said part of the land was subject to a “leasing arrangement” to the Australian Rubber Manufacturers Pty Ltd — a company that was deregistered in 2015.
Community pleased with ruling
Numurkah business owner David Forman said it was a huge relief to see the tyres disappear, and was pleased with the ruling.
Mr Forman, who runs a motor dealership within metres of the site, said the stockpile had been a dark cloud hanging over the town for the past decade and hoped the Government had the power to recover the money.
“It’s definitely what should’ve happened, it was a massive operation,” Mr Forman said.
“I’ve been here since they started collecting them and saw them sit there for many years.”
The ABC approached Sidebottom for comment.