Criminal charges over incident leading to Campbellfield toxic waste fire

The Environment Protection Authority has laid criminal and civil charges over an incident that caused a massive industrial blaze last year at a Campbellfield chemical recycling facility.

The fire at Bradbury Industrial Services burned for days in early April 2019, spreading toxic smoke across the northern suburbs and forcing residents indoors and the closure of schools and businesses. Several workers were injured from burns and chemical exposure.

Ten charges have now been brought against Bradbury and its director, Paul Anthony Bristow, over the work practices that allegedly sparked the fire and contamination of the environment. One of the charges carries a prison sentence of up to seven years and a fine of $413,000 for Bristow.

In addition to these charges there is a series of investigations into an alleged toxic waste dumping syndicate involving Bradbury and an associate, Graham Leslie White, who have been linked to more than a dozen chemical stockpiles in Melbourne and at a bush property in western Victoria. In the fortnight before the Campbellfield fire, Bradbury’s licence had been suspended after an EPA investigation found it was storing more than double the permitted level of materials on-site. The company was ordered to reduce the size of the stockpile by removing 300,000 litres of highly flammable liquids from its premises.

More than 175 firefighters fought the blaze, which also seriously contaminated a nearby waterway. Nearly $1.8 million was spent by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Melbourne Water to contain the fire and clean-up the pollution, which seeped into Merlynston Creek. Bristow and Bradbury have been charged with negligently polluting the environment, polluting a body of water, causing an environmental hazard and violations of its operating licence. 

The charges were welcomed by United Firefighters Union Victorian secretary Peter Marshall, who said it showed action was being taken against those who put the health of firefighters and the community at risk.

WorkSafe has also levied 42 civil charges against Bradbury over the various stockpiles it has uncovered, including seven new charges this week. "WorkSafe alleges Bradbury failed to take all reasonable precautions to prevent a fire or explosion of dangerous goods at the premises," a spokeswoman said. "It is also alleged the company failed to reduce the risks associated with dangerous goods storage and failed to notify WorkSafe of an excess quantity of dangerous goods at the site." Source: The Age

To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.  

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