Hundreds of asbestos pieces to shut down eastern suburbs beach

Sydney Morning Herald – 23 April 2021 – Sarah McPhee

Little Bay Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs will be closed for two weeks from Monday after more than 1000 pieces of asbestos-containing materials were discovered in the past eight months.

Randwick City Council said the temporary closure will allow a detailed site inspection to “help better understand the location, source and historic asbestos-containing materials (ACM) found onsite”.

“More than 1000 pieces of bonded [asbestos] (mainly fibrous cement sheeting) have been found indicating an ongoing source of contamination, potentially from nearby creek gullies where old building material may have been buried,” the council said in a statement, noting the nearby gullies may have been used as landfill sites prior to 1988 when the adjacent Prince Henry Hospital was operating.

The first discovery was made by a resident at the beach in August 2020.

The council said signs were installed last year advising beachgoers not to touch or pickup anything that looked like ACM. Regular inspections of the beach and surrounding rocks have been conducted.

“The beach has been regularly cleared by a licensed asbestos assessor under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 to not pose an unacceptable risk to health and safety during normal use,” it said.

The two-week closure begins on April 26, however, the beach will reopen on weekends.

The council said the form of bonded asbestos represents a “low-level risk”.

“Independent accredited assessors have also confirmed that there is currently no unacceptable risk to human health from normal use of the beach,” its absestos management advice states.

The council said the work will be undertaken by contractors RMA Group and Trinitas Group from 7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Poor weather or tidal movements have been factored in.

A small excavator will be used to dig 45 “test pits” to collect soil samples for testing and analysis in an accredited laboratory.

An outcome report will be published on the Randwick City Council website.

The use and import of brown and blue asbestos products was banned in Australia in the mid-1980s while white asbestos, making up 90 per cent of asbestos used across the globe, was banned in December 2003. Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs.

 

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