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Thursday, June 20, 2024

EPA clears inner west parks of asbestos risk

EPA Victoria has ruled out the presence of asbestos in other inner west Melbourne parks, following the discovery of trace asbestos at Donald McLean Reserve this week.

The EPA investigation followed recent reports suggesting widespread asbestos contamination within mulch in parks in the area.

“These reports followed the discovery of two small pieces of bonded asbestos and other contaminants in mulch at Donald McLean Reserve in Spotswood earlier this week,” the EPA said in a statement.

“EPA has assessed and taken samples from other parks in the area that received mulch from the same source as Donald McLean Reserve.”

It says testing results have confirmed the only site with traces of asbestos is Donald McLean Reserve. Material from all other sites tested negative for asbestos.

“Inspections and testing at the producer of the mulch that was supplied to Donald McLean Reserve did not find any asbestos in mulch products. The controls in place to prevent contamination were found to be of a very high standard,” said EPA Victoria.

Hobsons Bay Council closed the Reserve following the discovery of the asbestos material by a member of the public.

In a statement, the Council said a material hygienist was immediately brought in to inspect the playground area on Tuesday.

“Two pieces of material were found and sent for testing, with results on Wednesday confirming these were asbestos-containing material (ACM),” the Council said.

“The playground has been closed since Tuesday and Council is working with the hygienist and the EPA to conduct remediation works consistent with a management plan for the site.”

The Council said there are two types of mulch used on the reserve – a recycled product around mature tree planting and a virgin soft mulch around the playground. The two pieces of material were found in the recycled product.

“The safety of our community is our priority and Council is working with the EPA and the hygienist to inspect other sites using this mulch.”

“All playgrounds within Hobsons Bay are regularly inspected by a safety auditor, which also includes new reserves prior to them being opened.”

While its investigations continue, the EPA believes that the issue is localised to Donald McLean Reserve and that the source of asbestos and other contaminants at the site was illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste that occurred after the mulch was delivered.

The two pieces of asbestos containing material found at Donald McLean Reserve were bonded asbestos, the environmental authority confirmed.

Bonded asbestos is generally made up of a small amount of asbestos fibres that are tightly bound in a product such as resin or cement. It is considered low risk for people who are in contact with it, unless it is damaged or badly weathered, resulting in asbestos fibres being released into the air.

EPA recently completed a program of targeted inspections of 59 commercial garden mulch producers across the state. No asbestos was found, and risk controls were generally of a high standard, with six (6) sites required to make improvements, the Authority reported.

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