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EPA orders a clean-up after Cheltenham chemical spill

10 Jan 2019

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a furniture polishing company and ordered a clean-up, after a chemical leak at a factory in Argus St, Cheltenham.

EPA Southern Metro Manager Troy Kraska said the leak released strong smelling hydrocarbon chemicals into a stormwater drain.

“The main concern was that some of the chemicals were making their way into a Melbourne Water stormwater retarding basin, behind the factory,” Mr Kraska said.

“The leak totalled approximately 200 litres of chemicals including acetone, a common component of nail polish remover, and methyl ethyl ketone, that can contaminate land and surface waters.  Both are clear liquids and are known to be toxic to fish and other forms of aquatic life,” he said.

“It was important to trap the contaminated water and prevent it flowing through the stormwater system and into nearby waterways and from there to Port Phillip Bay.”

The leak was reported to EPA by a Melbourne Water maintenance crew, who installed absorbent booms downstream from the premises’ discharge point to trap the contaminated water.

EPA officers took samples and traced the spill back to the A & T Furniture Polishing Pty Ltd factory in Argus St.  The company blocked the stormwater drains at the premises, bailed contaminated water from the drains, and shut down the malfunctioning equipment that had caused the leak.

EPA has issued A & T Furniture Polishing Pty Ltd with a fine of $8,060, and an official notice ordering a full clean-up.

“EPA expects business and industry to have processes in place to know the condition of their assets that store or handle harmful substances, and maintain those assets so that leaks and spills don’t happen”, Mr Kraska said.

EPA will conduct additional inspections of the premises to ensure the clean-up is completed.

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Infringements Act 2008, the company has the right to have the decision to issue the infringement notice reviewed or alternatively to have the matter heard and determined by a court.

EPA is now preparing for new legislation to take effect in 2020, that will give it a stronger focus on prevention and substantially increase potential penalties.

The legislation introduces a criminally enforceable General Environmental Duty, a responsibility for anyone whose activities may involve pollution to take reasonable steps to eliminate risk to human health and the environment. 

Members of the public can report any kind of pollution to EPA’s Pollution Hotline on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC). 

Page last updated on 10 Jan 2019