Asbestos found in recycled mulch next to playground in Melbourne’s west | Melbourne

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Asbestos has been discovered in recycled mulch at a park in Melbourne’s west, prompting the closure of a playground and inspections of other public places.

A resident had reported items found in tanbark near a new playground at Donald McLean Reserve in Spotswood to the local council earlier this week.

The Hobsons Bay city council, in Melbourne’s west, confirmed the two pieces of material were sent for testing, with results on Wednesday confirming they contained asbestos. The playground has been closed since Tuesday.

The council said it was “conducting a thorough inspection of all open space and conservation areas where we have used recycled mulch from this specific supplier”.

In a statement, the council said it was working with a material hygienist and the state’s Environment Protection Agency to ensure hazardous material was removed.

“The safety of our community is our priority and Council is working with the EPA and the hygienist to inspect other sites using this mulch,” the council said in a statement.

“All playgrounds within Hobsons Bay are regularly inspected by a safety auditor, which also includes new reserves prior to them being opened.”

The council said the asbestos material was discovered in a recycled mulch product around mature tree-planting. A “virgin soft mulch” is also used around the playground.

It came after Victoria’s EPA conducted precautionary inspections of commercial mulch producers after asbestos was found in the soil of a Sydney park, which led to more discoveries in New South Wales and Queensland.

The agency inspected 59 producers in Victoria, and said on Wednesday no traces of asbestos was found in their garden mulch products.

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While most producers had good systems and processes to ensure clean mulch, six were required to strengthen their controls to prevent contamination from occurring.

Free garden mulch from popular online marketplaces has also come to the attention of the environment watchdog after a resident in Heathmont, in Melbourne’s east, received mulch containing building rubble and asbestos.

The EPA said this highlighted why garden mulch should only be obtained from reliable sources where quality checks are enforced.

“I urge the community to watch out for anyone offering garden mulch who can’t demonstrate they follow appropriate high standards and quality checks to avoid contamination,” the agency’s director of regulatory services, Duncan Pendrigh, said on Wednesday.

Asbestos testing was triggered after fragments of bonded asbestos were detected in Sydney’s Rozelle Parklands.

At least 75 sites, including parks and schools, have since been confirmed to be contaminated with traces of the materials.

Queensland authorities have identified at least 90 sites for investigation after contaminated mulch was taken from two stockpiles.

The EPA has taken legal action against four Victorian individuals or businesses over the mishandling of asbestos in the current financial year.

Businesses found guilty of mishandling the material face penalties of up to $2m.