Australia: Anger grows over fire at Melbourne recycling plant
22 July 2017
Anger has continued to grow among workers over the conditions that led to the fire at the Coolaroo recycling plant in Melbourne’s north, which broke out on July 13 and blanketed large areas of the city in toxic smoke and ash.
At least 115 households were forced to evacuate their homes for 24 hours due to smoke from the fire. Five people, including one child, were hospitalised with smoke-related conditions, and many others have been treated for asthma or developed other breathing difficulties. Up to 100 firefighters managed to bring the massive blaze under control only by last Saturday, and it has continued to smoulder among the compacted recycling materials in the factory ever since.
Workers complain of their homes and cars being covered in dirt and ash, smelling of burnt plastic. The state Environmental Protection Agency was forced to issue a notice to residents on July 20, warning them to stay away from local waterways, which have been poisoned by the runoff water used to fight the blaze.
On Thursday evening, around 100 people attended a meeting at the Coolaroo Hotel, called by the legal firm Madden Lawyers, to discuss a class action against SKM, the plant’s private operator. The suit was filed yesterday in the Victorian Supreme Court and has already been joined by more than 100 people.
While the meeting was called to discuss the legal aspects of a suit against SKM, many workers in attendance expressed outrage at the failure of government authorities to take any action against the company over the past years. When a speaker noted that there had already been three fires at the plant in 2017, residents shouted back the correction: “four!” Many residents demanded to know…