Sydney’s Asbestos Crisis: “Someone Did the Wrong Thing” - Hope 103.2

Sydney’s Asbestos Crisis: “Someone Did the Wrong Thing”

As more of the dangerous mineral is detected across the city, the government pledges to find those responsible.

By Mike CrooksTuesday 20 Feb 2024NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Sydney’s asbestos crisis is getting worse.

On Monday, a further seven sites across Sydney were confirmed to contain asbestos, according to the NSW Environment Protection Agency.

And on Tuesday, Nine News reported that multiple samples of asbestos were found in mulch at Glebe’s Bicentennial Park.

Asbestos was first found in garden mulch at a Rozelle playground in January. The bonded asbestos was brought home by a child from the playground, and reported by the child’s parent.

A full list of infected sites can be found here.

The EPA has been conducting tests as part of an ongoing investigation into the contaminated mulch, which was reportedly supplied by Greenlife Resource Recovery.

In a statement, the company said it “remains confident that when its mulch is delivered to contractors for landscaping it is free of asbestos.”

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“Illegal to be there”

It is understood that 130 EPA investigators are working through the supply chain of the mulch.

The mulch has been found to contain both bonded asbestos, such as that mixed with concrete, and friable asbestos, which can be crushed into a powder and therefore has a higher risk of fibres being released into the air.

“The challenge that we have as a result of the discovery of asbestos in a range of different places is that we need to understand how it got there,” NSW environment minister Penny Sharpe told the media last week.

“It is illegal for it to be there and we are now part, and the EPA is part, of a very important environmental criminal investigation into who has done the wrong thing.”

School closures

As part of the current crisis, asbestos has been found in mulch at five schools, forcing two to close.

The schools are:

  • Allambie Heights Public School, Allambie Heights
  • Domremy College, Five Dock
  • Liverpool West Public School, Liverpool
  • Penrith Christian School, Orchard Hills
  • St Luke’s Catholic College, Marsden Park

In a statement to parents and guardians, Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) said it was examining all of its schools.

“We are liaising with the EPA and working with landscapers and suppliers to identify any potential risks,” said the SCS.

“SCS is committed to ensuring our schools are safe environments for students, staff, workers and visitors.”

“We are liaising with the EPA and working with landscapers and suppliers to identify any potential risks,” said the SCS.

Taskforce

The NSW Government has established an Asbestos Taskforce to deal with the crisis.

“This increase in resources will ensure affected sites are secured and remediated,” a statement read.

“The taskforce will also provide support to ensure environmental risks to public land are appropriately managed, as we prioritise the criminal investigation into any breaches of law.”

Swifties can relax

Meanwhile, NSW Premier Chris Minns has told the media that the four Taylor Swift concerts at Sydney’s Accor Stadium from February 23, are unaffected by the crisis.

“I think it’s important to note that there’s been no positive testing in the Olympic Park precinct, and it’s been pretty comprehensive,” Mr Minns told ABC Radio Sydney.

“…important to note that there’s been no positive testing in the Olympic Park precinct, a…” Mr Minns told ABC Radio Sydney.

“I understand that maybe crews are going in again just to retest some parts of the precinct but it shouldn’t pose a threat to the impending concerts, in particular, Taylor Swift in the next few days.”

Dangers of asbestos

Asbestos was once used in the construction and transport industries before being banned in 2003 due its dangers to people’s health.

It is now illegal to make or use asbestos in any way.

According to Safe Work Australia, asbestos consists of many tiny fibres, which can get into the air when disturbed.

“Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma,” SWA said in a statement.

“People rarely get symptoms of these diseases until 20 to 30 years later.”

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