Wednesday, April 24, 2024

New asbestos taskforce meets

NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee chair, Carolyn Walsh, has been appointed to lead the Asbestos Taskforce announced by the NSW Government in the wake of Sydney’s contaminated mulch crisis.

The Government says the taskforce, which was due to meet for the first time today, will give more resources and support to the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s investigation into the source and distribution of the affected mulch.

Ms Walsh (pictured) will be joined on the taskforce by senior representatives of several NSW Government agencies, and local government bodies.

The Premier and Minister for the Environment have activated an additional surge workforce to assist the state’s environmental regulator, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), as the scale of the investigation continues to grow.

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring the community is safe from any potential harmful impacts of contact with asbestos,” said Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe.

“This is the largest investigation the Environment Protection Authority has undertaken in recent decades. The complex, criminal investigation involves multiple lines of enquiry.

“Our number one priority is to finish contract tracing the supply chain – so that any potential receiver of the mulch is notified. That means we can take immediate action to make the area safe.

“The surge workforce means we can get to the bottom of the supply chain much faster.

“I am also taking advice on options to strengthen penalties for those who do the wrong thing.”

The Minister also confirmed that additional staff from the Natural Resources Access Regulator and NSW Fire and Rescue will be deployed to the EPA to increase capacity. This is in addition to the EPA’s already expanded workforce on the investigation.

The taskforce will help co-ordinate government agencies and assist in prioritising sites considered of highest risk to the public, to ensure all resources are available to secure and remediate sites.

It will also support the EPA in ensuring environmental risks to public land are appropriately managed, as the EPA prioritises its criminal investigation into any breaches of the law.

The Government is also considering regulatory changes to strengthen both penalties and deterrence.

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