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City of Sydney sign on a street about 'Possible asbestos'
Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out

More than 5 months after asbestos was discovered in Sydney, sites are still contaminated

An update on asbestos-mulch gate (though not that much has happened)

Winnie Stubbs
Written by
Winnie Stubbs

Back in January and February of this year, an environmental disaster we're now referring to as "asbestos-mulch gate" took Sydney by storm, when asbestos-contaminated mulch was discovered in public spaces across Sydney, including schools and parksSince the initial blow-up (which led to the cancellation of the Mardi Gras Fair Day), the list of contaminated sites rose rapidly, with contaminated mulch found at 36 locations across the city by mid-February, and at 75 sites by early-March.

Now, almost halfway through the year (we don’t believe it either), several sites have been cleared of the harmful substance, but the clean-up operation is still ongoing – with sections of parks, streets and other outdoor spaces across the city still fenced off from public access.

Currently, clean-up efforts are complete in North Rosebery Park (in Rosebery), Pyrmont’s Pirrama Park, Harmony Park in Surry Hills, certain parts of Glebe’s Bicentennial Park and Wood Street Lands in Forest Lodge. In all but one of these sites, friable asbestos was detected: asbestos that’s loose and therefore more likely to be inhaled.

Clean-up operations are still underway at sites across Sydney, including Observatory Hill, Jubilee Park and Wentworth Park (both in Glebe) and other areas of Bicentennial Park. Where asbestos has not been removed, fences and signs remain in place, with the City of Sydney listing other contaminated sites on their website; including Munn Reserve at Millers Point, Pyrmont’s Giba Park and Belmore Park in Haymarket.

In response to the time taken on the clean-up operation, a spokesperson for the Environment Protection Authority told The Sydney Morning Herald: “Once we have established the status of clean-up works at all sites, we will work with landowners to establish a reasonable timeframe for completing works […] Where landowners fail to clean up sites in a timely manner, the EPA may consider regulatory action.”

Those concerned about potential asbestos exposure are encouraged to contact the Environment Line on 131 555, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can learn more about the investigation and view an up-to-date list of contaminated sites over here.

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