Asbestos contaminants found in flood levy fill

Asbestos contaminants found in flood levy fill

It has been revealed that asbestos-containing material was found during the construction of crucial flood barriers in South Australia’s Riverland, but the public wasn’t warned or even made aware of any risks.

In late November last year, asbestos-containing fragments of cement sheeting were found in barriers used on the north shore of Lake Bonney. They were uncovered by emergency services personnel who were filling DefenCell barriers with soil supplied by the local council ahead of flooding in the region.

SafeWork SA was notified, and leaders on the council believe that the asbestos was illegally dumped into what they described as a “borrow pit” for loose fill. A series of meetings and briefings were held regarding the management of the risk and the cost implication to the council and other government departments for the cleanup.

Government officials have defended the meetings being held under a cloak of secrecy and have downplayed any risk to the public or environment.

South Australian Opposition Emergency Services spokesman, Adrian Pederick, criticised the approach and said that it “is unacceptable that asbestos was found and not a single public warning was issued about this discovery.”

“The public and our volunteers deserve better during these difficult times. Our volunteers constantly put themselves in harm’s way to help the community, and all precautions must be taken to ensure they are protected.

“We now need assurances from the Labor Government that all sandbags are free of asbestos contamination and that the site at Lake Bonney is of no risk to the public.”

An SES spokesman said the soil was untouched “to minimise further disturbance, given the small number of fragments found,” while the barriers were watered down to minimise risk.

“There was no risk to the public in relation to the two small fragments of cement sheeting encountered as the pieces were non-fibrous (and) the area was also closed to the public,” he said.

The council has confirmed it is working with the Environmental Protection Authority to manage the disposal of the contaminated fill correctly.

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