20 February 2024

Bonded asbestos detected in Canberra 'cottage mulch', multiple businesses potentially impacted

| Claire Fenwicke
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cottage mulch

Bonded asbestos has been found in cottage mulch samples tested by WorkSafe ACT. Photo: Stonehenge Beltana Facebook.

WorkSafe ACT has confirmed it has detected bonded asbestos in mulch samples tested in Canberra.

The ACT Government had been alerted on Saturday (17 February) that potentially contaminated mulch had been sold in the Territory from 12 Canberra businesses between 1 March 2023 and 19 February 2024.

These retailers/suppliers are Stonehenge, Biajag, Cool Green, Living Simply, Botanical Places, Green Options, Casey Projects, Otis Gardening, Terra Mater Group (formerly Eifer Earth), Rexley Landscaping, COD Living Green Sustainable Gardening and J&D Maintenance.

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WorkSafe ACT has issued prohibition notices under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Dangerous Substances Act 2004 warning people not to disturb, handle or dispose of mulch material until further notice.

Work Health and Safety Commissioner Jacqueline Agius assured the ACT community that while there was no immediate major health risk, her department was responding quickly to the situation to protect the health and safety of all Canberrans.

“While the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres from bonded asbestos is low, if bonded asbestos is damaged or disturbed, it may cause the release of airborne asbestos fibres. It is very important that you do not move potentially contaminated material,” she said.

“The safety of the community is our number one priority. We are currently working with involved businesses to identify and inform anyone who may be impacted.”

Further testing of mulch from suppliers around the ACT is underway to establish the extent of the contamination and any further action and remediation required.

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If you have concerns that you may have received this mulch from an identified supplier:

  • do not disturb or try to remove it
  • isolate it so far as possible, and
  • contact WorkSafe ACT on WorkSafe_Asbestos@worksafe.act.gov.au.

This does not relate to the loose fill (friable) asbestos contained in Mr Fluffy homes, which poses a far greater health risk compared to bonded asbestos, which is mixed with cement or resin to keep the fibres in place.

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Not The Mama4:25 pm 21 Feb 24

Bonded asbestos IS really safe, nonetheless instructions were given to builders to remove bonded asbestos prior to building works and to charge clients for its safe disposal. I paid $2000 to have the asbestos sheet removed and disposed of prior to commencing a bathroom renovation.

Imagine my surprise to find a large section of the offending material on my driveway after the renovation was finished! It had fallen out of a rusty, holey skip that had been parked on the nature strip while works were being completed.

So my question is: How on earth did asbestos find its way into mulch? Given the above experience, I am willing to be a bathroom reno that the asbestos was illegally dumped and mixed into the mulch so as to avoid asbestos disposal fees.

With all the trees blowing down in storms locally recently I am trying to figure out why they trucked in this mulch at a competitive price. What chance the product was dumped at a crazy low price to just get it out of NSW and away from their EPA.

William Newby11:10 pm 20 Feb 24

How does it make any economic sense that dragging mulch from 300+kms away is better than sourcing it locally?
Can only assume there is a logical reason as to why ACT gov have made it so hard here that it’s cheaper to drag it all the way from Sydney, very eco friendly.

Capital Retro5:42 am 21 Feb 24

The local product is no better and a lot of it is “exported” elsewhere.

If the ‘government’ was alerted on Saturday 17 February, why was the most recent sale on 19 February? Are they all asleep? I find the warnings about ‘not disturbing’ the mulch laughable. Mulch is walked through, dug up, visited by pets. It is always ‘disturbed’. Has someone in the lazy Barr clownshow realised it will be near impossible to blame any future illness/death on this disgraceful failure.

Its starting to feel like Wittenoom.

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