Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Bag half full for EPA Victoria asbestos investigation

EPA Victoria says it has found “less than half a shopping bag” of suspect materials in its inspection of more than 30 parks and reserves for asbestos contamination.

It says all of the suspect material removed was in bonded form and presented a negligible health risk. The samples have now been sent for testing.

“Two sites have been removed from the active list – Dennis Reserve and HD Graham Reserve – after test results confirmed the materials were not asbestos. Fitzgerald Square Reserve in Brimbank Council has been given a Clearance Certificate issued by an independent hygienist, showing the site is clear of contamination,” the Authority today confirmed.

“EPA Victoria is continuing to respond to reports of suspected asbestos over the weekend, sending any suspect material for priority testing.”

EPA’s Agency Command Team – comprising of Environment Protection Officers, Environmental and Public Health Scientists and Specialist Investigators – is still actively investigating mulch producers and the supply chain of mulch supplied to Hobsons Bay City Council.

“EPA’s proactive inspections of 59 commercial mulch producers in March this year that use recycled timbers, found no asbestos contamination in mulch at any of these premises,” it said.

“Despite the negligible risk posed by the small number of bonded asbestos pieces found to date, EPA is coordinating with local government to have them engage independent hygienists to remove any visible asbestos containing material or other contaminants and advise when identified reserves are cleared.”

To date, Hobsons Bay City Council’s independent hygienist has assessed 18 of the 21 public spaces which have received recycled mulch material over the past 18 months.

“All areas where asbestos has been detected are being actively managed to prevent public access and clear the site,” the EPA said.

“EPA is also reiterating to the resource recovery sector, councils, and all managers of public spaces, that under the General Environmental Duty of the Environment Protection Act 2017, all Victorians must ensure they take action to prevent and manage risks to human health and the environment.”

Under this duty, councils and all public land managers have a clear responsibility to be proactively assessing the land they manage, including for contamination.

Those laws also apply to resource recovery facilities – including commercial mulch producers that use recycled timbers in their products – to prevent asbestos from entering the mulch production process.

Non-compliance with Victoria’s environmental protection laws can attract fines of up to $4 million and 5-years in prison for serious offences.

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