| 02.01,19. 01:49 PM |
Chemical stockpiles found at Melbourne warehouses linked to West Footscray inferno
The huge blaze produced a large amount of thick, black smoke. (ABC News)
An investigation into last year's industrial inferno in West Footscray has uncovered "illegal" chemical stockpiles in seven warehouses in Melbourne's north, according to authorities.
The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) alleged "high volumes of chemicals" were being stored illegally at four neighbouring sites in Epping and three sites in Campbellfield.
The sites house so many containers it could take several weeks to identify and quantify all the chemicals stored inside, the EPA said.
The discoveries were made on Friday as part of targeted inspections by the EPA and other authorities as the environmental watchdog investigates the August 2018 West Footscray warehouse fire.
"The inspections detected concerning amounts of liquid chemical waste stored within warehouses at several sites," the EPA said in a statement.
"The waste is contained and there is no immediate risk to the community."
Around-the-clock security guards had been employed to secure the sites, it said.
Sandbags have also been placed around the doors of the buildings, as well as around drains on the street, in order to prevent any run-off from the stockpiles.
The EPA has also set up mobile air-quality-monitoring devices around the site.
Land title searches show that all the properties in Epping — three on Devon Court, and an adjoining site on Yale Drive — and at least one of the Campbellfield warehouses are owned by the occupants of an address in the nearby suburb of Lalor.
Inspections linked to notorious West Footscray inferno
The discoveries at Epping and Campbellfield were sparked by information uncovered by the EPA as it investigates the cause of the West Footscray warehouse fire last year.
That blaze began on August 30 and sent thick, toxic smoke over Melbourne's western suburbs, which prompted authorities to issue multiple public health warnings.
Firefighters who attended the Somerville Road fire told the ABC they were shocked at how many 44-gallon drums and other containers were in the building.
It is believed chemicals were being stored in the warehouse without a permit.
The EPA said it may never be able to identify all of the chemicals released into the environment during the fire, and the coroner is running its own investigation into the incident.
However, PFAS — a controversial firefighting foam that has been phased out of use — was revealed as one of the "key chemicals" found in