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Asbestos Contamination Found in Melbourne Park’s Recycled Mulch, Playgrounds Closed for Inspection

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Asbestos material has been discovered in recycled mulch at the Donald McLean Reserve in Spotswood, a park in Melbourne‘s west, leading to the closure of a playground for inspection. Jason Murphy, a local resident, reported finding suspicious items in the tanbark near the new playground to the Hobsons Bay City Council earlier this week.

The council confirmed that two pieces of material found in the tanbark contained asbestos after testing results came back on Wednesday. As a precaution, the playground has been closed since Tuesday for further investigation and cleanup.

CityWide Service Solutions, a company chaired by former Labor premier John Brumby, was awarded a $1.2 million contract by the Hobsons Bay City Council in March 2022 for landscaping work at the Donald McLean Reserve playspace and community park upgrade in Spotswood. The company, a subsidiary of the City of Melbourne, has not responded to questions regarding the supply chain of the mulch used in the surrounding playground areas.

The EPA in Victoria had conducted precautionary inspections of commercial mulch producers after asbestos was found in Sydney‘s Rozelle Parklands. While most of the producers in Victoria were found to have clean mulch products, six were required to enhance their controls to prevent contamination.

In response to the discovery of asbestos in the park, the council is cooperating with a material hygienist and the EPA to ensure the hazardous material is properly removed. The safety of the community is the council’s top priority, and inspections are being conducted at other sites where the same recycled mulch supplier was utilized.

Investigations are ongoing to determine whether the asbestos material was added to the mulch after being laid or if it was present in the mulch delivered and laid between 2022 and 2023. The potential hazard lies in crumbling the asbestos material into dust, as airborne asbestos fibres pose health risks.

This incident adds to a string of asbestos discoveries in mulch across Australia, including at schools and public parks in Sydney and Queensland. As authorities continue their investigations, parks and playgrounds in the Melbourne area are being closely inspected to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.

The incident at the Donald McLean Reserve highlights the importance of proper mulch sourcing and quality checks to prevent contamination. The council reassures the public that the playground will only reopen once the mulch has been replaced and approved by the hygienist.

Rachel Adams

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