ASBESTOS contamination has been found in mulch provided at the Sunnyside Loop Waste Transfer Station, with a warning that the contamination could go back as far as August last year.
Tenterfield Shire Council has issued a public notice with an urgent request for anyone who has received the mulch to contact council.
“Of four samples tested on the mulch by the environmental analysis laboratory, one contained a small amount of asbestos (0.0008 per cent) which is considered by the Department of Health as having a low health risk and is not visible to the eye,” the public notice said.
The notice said the NSW Health Department and the Environment Protection Authority has asked council to investigate the mulch further.
“Meanwhile, please ensure that any mulch is kept damp and away from children and pets until the investigation is completed.
“Please be reassured that council is doing everything in its power to minimise any potential health risk during the investigation.”
Council general manager Lotta Jackson said council had acted quickly with a public notice and letterbox drop to alert residents, but reiterated asbestos had not been found in most samples, and had been found in “very low levels” in the fourth sample.
“The NSW government asbestos fact sheet shows that we have got asbestos in the air all the time,” Ms Jackson said.
“We are now working very closely with the Health Department and the EPA [Environment Protection Authority] on a day to day basis.”
The mulch has been cordoned off at the transfer station, and council has already employed an occupational hygienist to conduct further testing on mulch.
On Monday, council had received only two calls from people who had taken mulch.
Ms Jackson said the hygienist would put together a spreadsheet and prioritise testing according to where the greatest risk was believed to be.
“We are being extra cautious and have taken the time period back to the first receipt of selling waste in August ,” Ms Jackson said.
A NSW government fact sheet on asbestos and health risks advises that breathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, but people with health problems caused by inhaling asbestos had usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time.
Asbestos was found to be in small quantities in mulch sold by the Bega Valley Shire Council in NSW in April this year, with further testing showing about three of the 12 loads later inspected were contaminated.
An inspection at the Tenterfield waste transfer station in January this year found two cases of illegally dumped asbestos, with asbestos removal specialists called in to deal with the disposal.
At the time, the cost of removing a wheelbarrow load was put at $1094.
Council warned at the time it would conduct stricter inspections of vehicles and rubbish loads.
No asbestos is allowed to be dumped at the Sunnyside Loop Waste Transfer Station. Disposal is only allowed at the Boonoo Boonoo landfill with 48 hours prior notice to council.
Anyone who received mulch from the Sunnyside Loop Waste Transfer Station should call council on 6736 6000 as a matter of urgency.
If you have received mulch between August 6, 2011 and June 27, 2012:
- contact Tenterfield Shire Council urgently on 6736 6000.
- do not disturb soil or any other material thought to be contaminated
- spray with water to prevent mulch becoming airborne
- cover with plastic sheeting or a tarpaulin if possible to avoid exposure to the weather
- prevent access by children and pets.