A park in Sydney’s Surry Hills has been temporarily closed after a highly dangerous form of asbestos was found in recycled mulch.
Harmony Park was found to contain friable asbestos, a form of asbestos that is considered extremely hazardous as it can be easily crushed into a powder and become airborne.
It is just the latest area in the city to find asbestos in its mulch after it was first detected in the Rozelle Parklands in mid-January, forcing the park to close just weeks after it opened.
Other areas included the grounds of Liverpool West Public School and Campbelltown Hospital. As a result the hospital was forced to partially close and the school to fully shut down, with students studying from home until at least Wednesday.
Victoria Park and Belmore Park were also found to contain bonded asbestos, a less hazardous but still potentially toxic form of asbestos.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is currently conducting an investigation into the supply of the contaminated mulch to determine the extent of the spread, with at least 14 parks having being tested so far.
It is still unclear how many areas may be contaminated, with the state government unable to say if more schools are affected.
NSW Premier Chris Minns told media on Tuesday morning that the number of EPA officers investigating the case had skyrocketed from 40 to 120.
“Clearly this is completely unacceptable and the government is currently investigating certain actions that we will take in the weeks ahead, firstly to raise the fines that are imposed on companies that do the wrong thing – cabinet will be looking at that in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
“Secondly to enforce the orders that had been issued by the EPA against the company involved. I understand they’re being challenged in the court. I want to make it clear the EPA will be defending their orders made against that company in the NSW courts.”
Minns also flagged a mass recall of mulch is on the cards, but such a move would need to be agreed to by Commonwealth agencies.