“There could be a massive liability”: Peter Ristevski.Sydney suburbs that are asbestos dumping groundsIllegal dumping increasing in NSW
An investigation is underway into allegations Liverpool City Council knowingly supplied asbestos-contaminated soil and fill to Casula High School and a number of parks, reserves and waterways in the area.
The allegations were raised as a matter of urgency at a meeting of the council on Wednesday night in Sydney’s south-west.
The councillor who raised the issue, Peter Ristevski, said 22 sites could be affected by contaminated fill if the allegations proved correct.
He asked the council what monitoring and testing regimes had been established to check the health of staff and residents who may have been exposed – and whether the school was notified – but his urgency motion was voted down.
“There could be a massive liability in terms of the health to the public,” Cr Ristevski said after the meeting.
He said the asbestos had been stored at the council’s now-defunct road base recycling facility, known as the western depot, and later mixed in with soil and other materials and used as fill.
In a letter to the council dated October 27, the United Services Union said there were at least seven locations at which contaminated fill was used, including a local high school.
The letter stated that: “At the very minimum, the union is advised that soil and fill contaminated with asbestos was used in works located at Casula High School Craig Park Lt Cantelo [sic] Reserve McLoud [sic] ParkRickard Road Across from Harvan Park Along various waterways.”
The NSW Environment Protection Authority told Fairfax Media it was “currently investigating allegations that Liverpool Council has unlawfully disposed [of] waste at a number of properties in the Liverpool Council area”.
The union further alleged that 30,000 tonnes of contaminated soil or fill was sold by Liverpool Council to a developer working at Gregory Hills.
“The union has serious concerns that council has put the health of our members and the general community at risk of serious illness or worse,” the union’s general secretary, Graeme Kelly, wrote.
Liverpool council said it was cooperating with the EPA investigation into potentially contaminated fill at 22 sites.
“The tiny amount of asbestos located in stockpiles of material means that now we must test and – if appropriate – rehabilitate any sites where the fill may have been used for council works,” council chief executive Carl Wulff said in a statement to Fairfax Media.
He preempted the findings of the EPA investigation and claimed there was no health risk to the public or council staff.
“Trace amounts of asbestos would not be airborne or pose a health risk to members of the public and council workers,” he said. Mr Wulff said “only a few fragments of asbestos” had so far been discovered across 10 sites.
Backfill used by the council as part of drainage works in open space between Casula High School and Myall Road was yet to be tested. “Again, this site is capped and does not pose an immediate health risk to anyone,” he said. “But the site will be tested as a matter of priority.”
A spokeswoman for the council said the accusation the asbestos was distributed knowingly was ‘scurrilous and unfounded’.
The NSW education department has confirmed asbestos was found on school grounds over the last holiday period and that the EPA was investigating its source.
“During the recent school vacation period a random contamination audit was undertaken at Casula High School,” a department spokesman said. “Once the contamination had been confirmed, the school site was cleared of contaminated material identified in the inspection.”
He said the school was declared safe by an hygienist the day before classes resumed on October 6.
“The Department of Education continues to monitor the site in order to ensure ongoing safety,” the spokesman said.
Mr Wulff said the council would remediate any site where traces of asbestos were found. But allegations that contaminated soil had been sold to a developer were not correct, he said.
Liverpool council was one of 29 Sydney councils deemed “unfit for the future” under an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal review released last week.