Asbestos fragments found in Queensland mulch stockpile

Laine Clark |

The discovery of asbestos fragments in a Queensland mulch stockpile follows contamination in Sydney.
The discovery of asbestos fragments in a Queensland mulch stockpile follows contamination in Sydney.

Dozens of people have taken asbestos-contaminated mulch from a central Queensland council depot.

Authorities are trying to locate 24 people who were recorded accessing the stockpile at the Emu Park transfer station near Rockhampton since November.

The depot was closed after a “small amount” of asbestos was detected this week in the mulch stockpile of 5887 cubic metres.

It is believed 2mm by 3mm asbestos fragments were located.

“We are getting certified asbestos removalists to dispose of the entire stockpile,” Livingstone Shire Council CEO Cale Dendle told AAP.

The council has also offered free mulch removal to the 24 people identified.

Mr Dendle was confident no one else had accessed the stockpile and that the health risk was low, with the council depot reopening on Thursday morning.

However, he said anyone concerned about receiving contaminated mulch should contact the council or the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation (DESI) pollution hotline.

“We are hopeful that the health risk is low but that’s really for the regulators,” Mr Dendle said.

The department is also investigating at NuGrow Rockhampton after samples returned positive asbestos results at the waste company.

Testing is under way at the site, barely two weeks after asbestos fragments were detected in a compost stockpile at NuGrow Ipswich.

It is understood the positive asbestos results at both NuGrow sites are not linked.

Up to 25 sites were initially identified when authorities looked at who had received potentially tainted soil from NuGrow’s Ipswich site.

But authorities later said 90 sites in Queensland had been detected, with more than 4000 tonnes of soil leaving NuGrow Ipswich.

Asbestos testing in Queensland was triggered by a Sydney outbreak.

Fragments of bonded asbestos were detected in mulch at the recently opened Rozelle Parklands in January, with 75 other sites identified since including parks and schools.

It has sparked a crackdown with on-the-spot littering fines and penalties for asbestos-related crimes to double, under the biggest change to NSW’s environment laws in more than three decades.