15 March 2024

'Localised' friable asbestos found in residential complex

| Claire Sams
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Remediation works will begin immediately after asbestos was found in a Denman Prospect residential complex. Photo: File.

A small amount of friable asbestos has been found in a Canberra residential complex, with remediation works to start immediately.

According to WorkSafe ACT, a mulch sample taken from a residential complex in Denman Prospect was found to contain a small amount of friable asbestos on Wednesday (13 March).

This kind of asbestos can more easily be crushed into a powder and has a higher risk of airborne fibres, unlike bonded asbestos that is mixed with cement or resin to keep fibres in place.

A prohibition notice is in place, and the public are asked not to disturb or dispose of mulch material until further assessment and remediation action can be organised.

Work Health and Safety Commissioner Jacqueline Agius said a small amount was detected.

“Out of the 100m3 [cubic metres] of mulch on the site, only 0.2g of friable asbestos was identified, despite extensive testing of the site,” she said.

“The report from the licenced asbestos assessor shows that the friable asbestos was only found in one of 16 samples taken from across the residential complex.

“I have been advised by the assessor that the quantities and localised nature of the contamination on this site constitute a low risk to the public safety.”

WorkSafe ACT is making enquiries to determine the extent of the potential contamination and residents are being contacted.

The mulch was provided by a NSW supplier.

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An ACT Government spokesperson said the ACT EPA would continue partnering with WorkSafe ACT to respond to the situation.

“We will be contacting owners of residences that have had a positive test result and begin the process of remediation of their site,” the spokesperson said.

“We will also engage with owners of sites that have tested negative to ascertain if they wish to have further testing undertaken.”

The EPA has carried out proactive inspections of local green mulch producers, which confirmed that rigorous contamination control processes are being followed.

The spokesperson said there was no known impact on any ACT Government owned public facilities – such as parks, playgrounds and public schools – and that the EPA had confirmed recycled timber mulch was not being produced within the ACT.

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The Denman Prospect discovery follows bonded asbestos being confirmed in several mulch samples across the ACT as of 28 February, including in 70 cubic metres of product at a residential complex.

Ms Agius said asbestos contamination was a low but still ever-present risk in the ACT and the community should remain vigilant.

“If anyone identifies fragments of building material in mulch that they suspect is asbestos, they should contact WorkSafe ACT.”

If you purchased “cottage mulch”, do not try to remove it or otherwise disturb it, and contact WorkSafe ACT on WorkSafe_Asbestos@worksafe.act.gov.au or call the ACT Government Taskforce on 13 22 81.

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