Victoria’s Environment Watchdog Investigates Asbestos Contamination At Local Parks

Victoria’s environment watchdog has warned local councils after discovering potential asbestos contamination in mulch at several parks across the state.

The EPA has initiated an investigation mainly centred on Hobsons Bay council in Melbourne’s west, where records of the supply chain for mulch production are under scrutiny.  

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Duncan Pendrigh, the EPA’s director of regulatory services, said the regulator would urge all councils to examine their quality assurance process on construction and landscape work.

“They’re all responsible for the quality of the mulch that gets laid and they’ll be held accountable by us,” he said.

He said the presence of asbestos in the mulch was attributed to its historical use in construction materials rather than intentional introduction by producers. 

“We can assure you that the mulch producers appear to have a clean bill of health,” he said.

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“It’s really about the widespread use of asbestos in building the last four years or 40 or 50 years up until 1990.

Meanwhile, the EPA is actively exploring the possibility of illegal dumping as the contamination has been detected in multiple parks, including five within the Hobsons Bay council area and one in Merri-bek council in Melbourne’s north. 

Despite the concerning findings, Pendrigh said the risk of harm remained low, with only minor contamination reported in Hobsons Bay.

The EPA has also instructed affected councils to fence off the identified contamination areas. 

Hobsons Bay Council has been directed to commission a hygienist to inspect all parks and gardens that have received mulch in the past 18 months.

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