Status
Active
Incident Date
27 March 2024
Locations Affected
Greater Metropolitan Melbourne area

Dumping of construction and demolition waste is illegal and we encourage you to report any suspicious activities to us on 1300 372 842. For potential asbestos, press option 2 then option 6.

Summary

Our Agency Command Team that was set up to lead our response to potential asbestos contamination in mulch delivered to parks and reserves, has led our investigations into asbestos contamination.

We've conducted 101 inspections of parks, reserves and mulch producers, while councils have separately conducted their own inspections and reported findings to us.

Given the progress of our investigations and a significant decrease in the number of reports being received, our response to reports of suspected asbestos-containing material will be led by its regional environment protection teams.

Investigations into sources of contamination continue. Small pieces of asbestos-containing material found so far in parks and reserves pose low risk. All asbestos found to date is bonded in cement and non-friable.

The community is providing information and making enquiries, including about residential properties to which we are responding.

We'll continue to respond to reports in any parks and reserves and require the land manager to take appropriate action to prevent harm to the community, including public communications and remediation of the site.

Status of all sites

Altona Coastal Park, Altona

  • Asbestos-containing material has been confirmed at the site.
  • Council reports the area has been fenced and signs have been erected while it implements its remediation plan, which is to surface rake and remove contamination
  • Mulch was most recently laid at the site in multiple batches between September 2021 and February 2023.
  • The mulch producer is known to us, has been inspected and cleared of having contamination in mulch products.
  • The likely source of contamination is historic dumping.

GJ Hosken Reserve, Altona North

  • Asbestos-containing material has been confirmed at the site.
  • Hobsons Bay City Council has restricted access to the area while it implements its remediation plan, which is to remove the contaminated mulch.
  • Mulch was most recently laid at the site between April and May 2022.
  • The mulch producer is known to us and has been inspected and cleared of having contamination in mulch products at its premises.
  • The likely source is legacy in situ contamination.

 

Cleared sites

The following sites have been remediated and cleared by council.

Crofts Reserve, Altona North

Kororoit Creek Reserve, Altona North

PJ Lynch Reserve, Altona North

Donald McLean Reserve, Spotswood

Brooklyn Reserve Fenced Dog Park, Brooklyn

Cherry Lake Buffer Mound, Altona

Federation Trail, Brooklyn

Grieve Parade, Altona

Point Ormond Reserve, Elwood

Clydevale Avenue Park Playground, Clyde North

Dendy Reserve, Brighton

Seabrook Reserve, Broadmeadows

Laverton Creek (at the rear of AB Shaw Reserve), Altona Meadows

Newport Lakes Reserve, Newport

Truganina Park, Altona Meadows

Doug Grant Reserve, Altona

PA Burns Reserve, Altona

Fitzgerald Square Reserve, Sunshine West (Brimbank Shire Council)

Minihans Reserve, Cranbourne (City of Casey Council)Shore Reserve, Pascoe Vale South (Merri-bek City Council)

Supply chain investigations

In compliance with our regulatory notices issued, a suitably qualified expert engaged by Hobsons Bay City Council has inspected 21 parks and reserves.

Investigations into the supply chain of mulch used by Hobsons Bay City Council have cleared 3 mulch producers, with our recent inspections confirming they do not have any asbestos contamination in mulch products for sale at their premises, and their contamination controls are appropriate.

We had already inspected all 3 companies as part of our precautionary inspection program of 59 mulch producers in March and have again determined their production processes are compliant.

As per our normal policy, companies will not be named while investigations are underway.

Some of the mulch present at sites dates to before 2015 - before the introduction of the Environment Protection Act 2017 and the regulation of recycled timbers in mulch production by us.

We will forensically examine Hobsons Bay City Council’s mulch supply chain, focusing on contamination risk controls of those involved in transporting, handling and laying mulch.

Precautionary inspections

This work is in addition to precautionary inspections of 59 Victorian mulch producers in March. We did not identify any asbestos contamination in mulch products. We did identify 6 producers who needed to improve contamination controls and are following them up to ensure those controls are in place.

Historic dumping and legacy contamination

When determining if a case is likely to be waste introduced after the mulch had been laid, officers looked at the size and placement of the material.

When suspected asbestos pieces are larger in size than the standard size of the mulch, it is unlikely the asbestos has been through the mulching process.

If the asbestos is sitting on the surface, rather than mixed into the mulch, it is most probably a recent addition to the mulch.

Officers also look for other signs of contamination in the area, such as other building waste and debris and also looked at the historic use of the site and whether it was likely contamination was present when the mulch was laid.

A combination of these factors has led our officers to believe historic dumping and legacy contamination is the cause of the majority of the asbestos contamination found.  Investigation of contamination at Donald Maclean Reserve, Spotswood and Kororoit Creek Reserve, North Altona continues.

Type of asbestos found

So far, the material we've had confirmed as asbestos-containing material is bonded asbestos, not the more dangerous friable asbestos.

Bonded asbestos is generally made up of a small amount of asbestos fibres that are tightly bound in a product such as resin or cement. It's considered low risk for people who are in contact with it, unless damage or bad weathering lead to asbestos fibres being released into the air.

It's not unusual for people to find pieces of bonded asbestos in their homes or in the community. If you find suspected asbestos, you should contact your local council environmental health officer or us. As a precaution, do not pick it up or handle it.

Regulatory controls

We place stringent requirements on the waste and recycling industry to prevent harm to our environment and human health, including from asbestos contamination. We carry out regular inspections of sites, including assessing the effectiveness of risk controls to prevent contamination from occurring.

Under Victoria’s environment laws that came into effect on 1 July 2021, mulch producers receiving waste timber for recycling are required to obtain a permission from us to operate and to comply with strict requirements to prevent harm to human health and the environment.

Non-compliance with these laws can attract fines of up to $4 million and 5 years in prison for serious offences.

This environmental legislation also applies to demolition contractors supplying timber to mulch producers for recycling. Under these laws, asbestos-contaminated material must not be recycled and can only be disposed of at a licensed landfill.

More information

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Reviewed 17 May 2024