Prosecutions possible for illegal toxic canisters dumper

UPDATE: The person responsible for illegally dumping toxic chemical canisters which exploded and caused the closure of the Chinchilla Waste and Recycling Centre could be prosecuted.

The Western Downs Regional Council believes it has identified the source of the collected waste in which was 20 canisters containing aluminium phosphide.

Each 300g canister holds 90 pellets which can explode when in contact with moisture or water, releasing very toxic gases that can be fatal.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Dalby Command Acting Inspector Cameron Ashmore said the rubbish truck's compaction had crushed the canisters which mixed the pellets with moisture causing them to heat and later ignite, then explode.

He said the load was dumped in the industrial bin and when facility crews saw the fire they tried to extinguish it with water, exacerbating the situation with the phosphine gas which is "extremely flammable and toxic".

"The workers were following the normal procedure for something like that," he said.

"The workers at the dump were exposed to the gas but are showing no ill-health effects.

"Those workers are very lucky."

Three tonnes of rubbish was this morning collected and taken to the old Chinchilla landfill site which followed WDRC protocols, Insp. Ashmore said.

Explosions were reported to QFES about noon on Monday and the facility was evacuated while firefighters in breathing apparatus and hazmat suits secured the area.

Crews remained on scene until after 10pm, and returned today to collect and remove the canisters.

Despite warning labels on the canisters which were used to fumigate grain silos of weevils or rodents, they had not been disposed of properly, Insp. Ashmore said.

He said JJ Richards, which collects rubbish across the WDRC, was not at fault and had followed procedures.

"If anyone has chemicals that need disposing, contact JJ Richards or the council for advice," he said.

Emergency services at the Chinchilla Waste and Recycling Centre after a
Emergency services at the Chinchilla Waste and Recycling Centre after a "hazardous" incident occurred earlier today. Brooke Duncan


EARLIER, 9AM: The exploding canisters which forced the evacuation of the Chinchilla Waste and Recycling Centre have been identified as a form of fumigant.

An unknown number of the canisters, which are about as big as a soft drink can, began exploding when they were dumped at the facility from a truck.

They were mixed with other rubbish and waste, and began exploding inside the facility just after 12pm yesterday.

The canisters have been identified as aluminium phosphide which is a highly toxic inorganic compound used as a fumigant to kill small vermin such as rats.

They are commonly used in grain silos.

Due to the toxicity of the chemicals, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews wore breathing apparatus and full hazmat suits when securing the waste facility on Slesser St yesterday.

Crews were forced to search for the canisters due to the unknown number and the fact they were mixed in with other waste and rubbish.

There were no injuries reported with either QFES crews or waste management staff.

QFES crews remained on scene until after 10pm and returned this morning to help retrieve the exploded canisters.
It is understood they will be removed and taken to another facility.

The Chinchilla Waste and Recycling Centre remains closed, according to the Western Downs Regional Council.