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Asbestos contamination in dump mulch

COMPOST DANGER: A local resident expresses concern after hearing the mulch he purchased may contain asbestos. Photo: Zach Hogg / NewsMail
COMPOST DANGER: A local resident expresses concern after hearing the mulch he purchased may contain asbestos. Photo: Zach Hogg / NewsMail Zach Hogg BUN190814MUL2

THE Bundaberg Regional Council has issued a total recall on asbestos contaminated mulch sold from its dump, more than two weeks after suspicions were first raised.

The council admitted a community member informed staff at the University Dr facility of the suspected asbestos contamination on August 7 after purchasing a cubic metre of mulch.

It reported a sample of the product was sent away for testing "within days" of the customer's alert.

However the halt on sales did not come until yesterday, after the council received positive results for asbestos contamination in its mulch.

But the recall announcement comes too late for many customers, who purchased and have already used the contaminated product.

A Walkervale man, who said he wished not to be named for fear of reprisal, purchased three cubic metres of the product on Monday and immediately laid it on his home garden. 

But when he returned to the dump to purchase more mulch yesterday morning, he was told he would not to able to buy purchase any more of the product.

The Bundaberg dump gate attendant told the man he could not provide further explanation and directed any questions to the on-site dump management.

The man said after much probing and questioning he was "eventually" told by the manager about the asbestos contamination.

"She (the facility manager) tried to fob me off saying they would get back to me about any health issues," he said.

But the man is worried he's not the only one who faced exposure to the asbestos.

"When I was there yesterday, there were other people loading up too," he said.

"This is now a community issue, who knows how many people may be affected."

He said his neighbours and their children could also have inhaled the asbestos along with anyone else who purchased and used the product.

The council's Waste and Recycling spokesman Vince Habermann described the contamination as a "small amount" and an "isolated incident".

"Unfortunately, despite our best practices, observations and checks, if someone is hiding material in dumped mulch, there is a chance it may escape initial detection," he said.

Cr Habermann said the council staff at the facility inspected green waste as it was delivered throughout the day.

"On average, our staff would inspect green waste set aside for mulching once an hour," he said.

He said about pproximately 70% of the mulch the dump produced was accessed by one contractor.

"The contractors that mulch the green waste also inspect the product before they place it into the shredder," he said.

The council reported the contaminated material remained at the dump site as sales of the product ceased yesterday morning and testing continued.



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