22 February 2024

70 cubic metres of bonded asbestos-contaminated mulch found at residential complex

| Claire Fenwicke
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Stonehenge Beltana truck

WorkSafe ACT issued Stonehenge Beltana in Pialligo with a prohibition notice after tests for bonded asbestos came back positive. Photo: Facebook.

About 70 cubic metres of mulch containing bonded asbestos has been found at a residential complex by WorkSafe ACT.

A prohibition notice has been served on the site, and further testing is underway. The building owner has been notified.

On Saturday (17 February), authorities became aware that mulch contaminated with bonded asbestos had made its way from NSW into Canberra and at least 10 businesses were potentially impacted.

According to WorkSafe ACT, mulch at the residential complex accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total volume of the mulch understood to be in the Territory.

Another 20 potentially contaminated sites have been contacted and issued verbal prohibition notices by inspectors to ensure the mulch is not disturbed, handled or disposed of until testing is completed.

Work Health and Safety Commissioner Jacqueline Agius said these places had also been ordered to isolate the mulch through barricading or taping off the impacted areas.

“Once we have undertaken testing and have the results in hand, we will know what we’re dealing with and can organise next steps,” she said.

“We are endeavouring to contact all identified businesses and households as soon as we can. We understand that people are concerned, but the important thing to remember is that the safest place for the mulch right now is to remain undisturbed on the ground.”

A further nine potentially contaminated sites have not been able to be reached by phone or email so far. Inspectors visited these properties on Thursday (22 February) to provide information, arrange testing, or leave letters.

Meanwhile, 14 sites are booked for asbestos assessor testing, four sites have been tested and are awaiting results, and two businesses are organising their own testing.

Initial contact tracing is underway to locate about 50 cubic metres of the affected mulch known to have been purchased in small quantities.

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Stonehenge Beltana has reassured the community it is “working around the clock” to ensure the health and safety of all customers.

Mulch was supplied to the Pialligo landscaping and garden supply centre from a wholesaler, who had, in turn, bought it from the same supplier implicated in supplying bonded asbestos-contaminated mulch across Sydney.

Stonehenge Beltana general manager Jack Amey clarified the business had received confirmation of a positive test from WorkSafe ACT at 4:52 pm on Tuesday (20 February) and received a prohibition notice from WorkSafe ACT about half an hour later.

“It should be assumed that all sales of Cottage Mulch during the notifiable period may be contaminated with asbestos,” he said.

“We are confident this is affecting less than 60 customers across trade and retail over the period, and we have … notified all our customers who did purchase the product that we had details for.”

The business has sectioned off the affected cottage mulch that’s still on site until it can be safely removed.

Mr Amey said Stonehenge Beltana employees were working closely with WorkSafe ACT and the Environmental Protection Authority to minimise risks and protect everyone’s health and safety.

“We understand this may be a stressful time for some people, and we reiterate we are doing everything we can to alleviate current concerns,” he said.

“We are currently testing for any possible cross-contamination in line with safe and responsible business practices. Pialligo continues to welcome customers safely.”

Bonded asbestos is different from loose fill (friable) asbestos contained in Mr Fluffy’s homes. Bonded asbestos is mixed with cement or resin to keep the fibres in place, which lowers its risk to people’s health.

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While contamination has been confirmed at Stonehenge Beltana, it’s not yet known if any of the impacted mulch was sold to other businesses or customers.

Mr Amey said it was important to take the necessary precautions.

“We do urge any of our customers who have purchased Cottage Mulch to follow the instructions from WorkSafe ACT, which is to not disturb or try and remove it, and to isolate it so far as is possible, then contact WorkSafe ACT for assistance with identifying and remediating,” he said.

“If a customer of ours is unsure about the type of mulch they’ve purchased or the timing of said purchase, we also urge them to contact WorkSafe ACT via their website or Access Canberra [on 13 22 81].”

WorkSafe ACT can also be contacted directly at WorkSafe_Asbestos@worksafe.act.gov.au.

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Meanwhile, a few people flee places with “bonded asbestos contamination” to return home to their houses that are loaded with “bonded asbestos” eaves, laundry and bathroom linings!

Yes, what is lacking in the media reporting is the lack of them asking an asbestos expert for an opinion. They will then find out that Fibro is so safe, people still live in houses made from it and there is zero or less chance of danger in the mulch. They should be annoyed with the fact the mulch contains contaminates of any sort. The media is beating it up as though it is a “Mr Fluffy” situation .

The homes are safe until you dril into or or break it up. One would assume that the fibres are broken up in the mulch, as having huge sheets of it would likely have been out of place and picked up sooner.

Its not clear the level of contanimation or how this even occurred

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