Plea for task force to dig into growing asbestos crisis

A council embroiled in Melbourne's asbestos outbreak is pleading for the Victorian government to follow NSW's lead and create a task force to tackle the growing crisis.

Hobsons Bay City Council voted on Tuesday night to call on Premier Jacinta Allan to emulate NSW by setting up an asbestos task force.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has confirmed or suspects asbestos contamination of nine parks or reserves across Melbourne.

"EPA’s investigations are showing contamination at these sites may be a result of either, contaminated material on the ground that mulch has been laid over, or contamination introduced after the mulch was laid," the authority said late Wednesday.

The NSW asbestos task force was announced in February to support the state's environment watchdog after asbestos was found in mulch at the Rozelle Parklands.

Seventy-five sites across Sydney returned a positive result for asbestos following testing of 6500 tonnes of mulch.

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas.
Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas is yet to commit to a task force.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas was non-committal on whether the government would follow through on the western Melbourne council's request.

"The EPA has been working over the weekend and over the last few days ... looking to find out the source of this contamination," she told reporters.

"It's particularly important we get to the bottom of it."

Investigations are continuing after the cancer-causing substance was discovered at parks and reserves within the Hobsons Bay, Merri-bek and Brimbank council areas.

Inspectors checked out a newly suspected site at RJ Long Reserve in Williamstown North on Wednesday and found no asbestos.

Testing of samples from Shore Reserve at Pascoe Vale South in Melbourne's north came back positive before an occupational hygienist inspected the reserve and it was given the all-clear to reopen.

The authority said other sites were also close to being reopened.

Hobsons Bay council revealed testing had confirmed the presence of asbestos-containing material at Altona Coastal Park, with sections of the park fenced off until further notice.

Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto has backed the push to establish a task force and accused the government of failing to deliver more sites to safely dispose of asbestos.

"This issue is now spread widely across Melbourne and families across Victoria need to know that ... they can visit those playgrounds in a safe way," he said.


Hobsons Bay City Council:

Altona Coastal Park - awaiting test results

PA Burns Reserve, Altona - confirmed

GJ Hosken Reserve, Altona North - confirmed

Crofts Reserve, Altona North - confirmed

Dennis Reserve, Williamstown - awaiting test results

PJ Lynch Reserve, Altona North - confirmed

Donald McLean Reserve, Spotswood - confirmed

Brimbank Council:

Fitzgerald Square Reserve, Sunshine West - awaiting test results

Merri-bek City Council:

Shore Reserve, Pascoe Vale South - confirmed

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