Shock delay after asbestos found in park

The transport authority blamed holiday delays and minimal staffing after it was revealed emails voicing contamination fears went unanswered for nearly a week. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Damian Shaw

Further asbestos samples have been detected at a newly opened park in Sydney, with the state’s transport body admitting the Christmas holiday period meant it waited a week to begin testing after it was alerted to the contamination.

To date, 117 samples have returned 17 positive results of asbestos-contaminated mulch at the Inner West’s Rozelle Parklands and sites related to the Rozelle Interchange Project.

A Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson confirmed the state authority was told of contamination fears through an email inquiry sent on January 2, however the body did not become aware of the issue until six days later on January 8.

“Due to the Christmas holiday period and minimal staffing during this time, the email did not reach the appropriate team until Monday 8 January, when it was immediately actioned and the member of the public was contacted directly,” the spokesperson said.

Sydney's Rozelle Parklands remains closed after asbestos contaminated mulch was found at multiple sites. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Damian Shaw

An occupational hygienist was asked to being investigations and testing at Rozelle Parklands on Tuesday, January 9, a week after the initial email, before testing returned two positive samples of bonded asbestos that evening.

By Wednesday, the park was fenced off to public, where it remains closed, with the news circulated in a public media release.

While bonded asbestos is low risk compared to friable asbestos, bonded asbestos can become friable if the substance is damaged, or deteriorates through age.

On Thursday evening, a media release from TfNSW said two more positive samples were detected in garden beds located at the Motorway Operations Centre, with another positive sample found in a small garden bed located in a traffic island at the Victoria Rd and Terry St intersection.

Both of the sites have now been fenced off the public.

Testing from 117 samples has returned 17 positive results for asbestos. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Damian Shaw

On Friday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also expressed concern for the contamination which occurs in his Inner West Sydney electorate of Grayndler.

“I don’t understand how it can be that it wasn’t foreseen … it’s just extraordinary,” he said.

Mr Albanese said he had been shocked by the revelations and said it was “really disappointed” to see the park closed just weeks after it was opened to locals who were disrupted by construction of the controversial WestConnex motorway.

“I want to make sure that the appropriate authorities get on top of this really quickly (and) clean it up once and for all,” he said.

The main contractor for Rozelle Parklands will now provide TfNSW a draft remediation plan to remove the 10 tonnes of contaminated mulch from Rozelle Parklands and any associated sites.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also issued the mulch supplier with a formal notice for it provide the regulator with information and records.

While the EPA stressed that very early advice” states the mulch was not used at locations other than Rozelle Parklands, the authority said it would review “all records pertaining to this batch of mulch”.