On Friday afternoon, March 20th, Parks, Conservation and Lands (PCL) staff informed me that contamination had been discovered at the old Ainslie tip site – the place where volunteers have spent many happy hours planting and maintaining young seedlings.
As a precautionary measure, PCL staff has since closed the site while a detailed inspection is conducted. On Monday March 23rd, at a meeting with staff of Parks, Conservation and Lands and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), I was informed that bonded asbestos was discovered in the form of old construction material, such as small fragments of asbestos cement sheeting and roofing and sections of asbestos cement water pipe. These materials were in common use in buildings and as water supply infrastructure built before 1985. I understand that the asbestos in such products only becomes dangerous to human health if it is cut or drilled and the fine dust enters the lungs. This is in sharp contrast to the deadly loose fibrous asbestos that was sprayed in roof cavities as insulation and removed by the Government in the 1980s.
Advice from the Environmental Consultant’s engaged by PCL to assess the site and remove the asbestos fragments is that the health risk of the asbestos discovered in the discarded and buried construction material is extremely low, however as a precautionary measure the old Ainslie tip site will be a no-go area until the detailed assessment and remedial works by the Environmental Consultant, PCL and EPA staff is completed.
We can be disappointed that we cannot go there to water our plantings, but I understand that there is no reason to be concerned about the health risks of our past visits. I reiterate that the site has been closed as a precautionary measure, not because it is already known to be a dangerous place.
Please notify Canberra Connect on 13 22 81 if you see dumped construction material on public land including the nature reserves that may contain asbestos. Canberra Connect will collect relevant information and pass it on to the appropriate authority. Please do not take samples of the material or disturb the site. Those of you who have access to a GPS might record the location.
I will keep you informed of any relevant information and developments communicated to me by any ACT Government Agency.
25 March 2009