Illegal asbestos dump contaminates sports field
A NEW sports field at Wollongbar and a private farm have been contaminated with asbestos and will cost Ballina Shire ratepayers more than $400,000 to clean up.
The asbestos was discovered in a large supply of mulch recycled from the green waste division of Ballina Shire Council's Waste Management Facility.
Standard testing at the facility found the mulch to be free of asbestos and contaminates, but when it was applied to landscaping around the sports field, small pieces of material were spotted that looked like asbestos.
Subsequent testing confirmed the pieces were asbestos.
The council's civil services group manager, John Truman, said a plan of action was put in place between the council, the Environmental Protection Authority, WorkCover and asbestos contractors to remove the contaminated mulch and make both sites safe.
"We're still looking at what will be our final management response to the site," Mr Truman said.
He said the illegal dumping of asbestos at waste facilities was a growing concern for councils on the Northern Rivers.
"We inspect and check customers coming through to the extent we can but it is an increasing problem with the number of people that don't declare what is in their rubbish when they visit the landfill," Mr Truman said.
"And that's where this has occurred and in response to that we're now going to have to review our management arrangements on the site to further insure our inspection regime can stop this happening.
"I do need to emphasise that before we used this material we tested it in accordance with the standards and the fraction is so minor it wasn't detected in that testing arrangement."
Fortunately, the Wollongbar Sport Field Project is still under construction and not open to the public.
Mr Truman said the illegal dumping of asbestos at waste facilities, by not declaring it, was a serious risk to public health and safety and a cost burden to the community.
"That's something we're going to be working on together to make sure we've all got a regional approach to how we manage our sites in response to this potential risk and behaviour," Mr Truman said.
Last month, Lismore City Council staff dealt with five separate instances where asbestos was found hidden inside waste dropped off at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre.
Waste Operations Coordinator Kevin Trustum said he was dismayed that people were putting the health and safety off staff at risk to avoid paying for asbestos disposal.
"People may think they are just getting away with saving money on disposal, but they are actually putting people's lives at risk," he said.
"This sort of behaviour could result in someone's death.
"That's not an exaggeration, that's reality. Asbestos kills - and all it takes is one breath."
Under new EPA regulations, waste facilities now record the number plates of vehicles entering the facility.
People can receive $4000 on-the-spot fines for asbestos dumping with repeat offenders risking a two-year prison sentence.
It is safe to assume that if you are removing material from a house built before 1987, it is likely to contain asbestos.