Sydney school closes after asbestos concerns

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Students from a school in south-west Sydney have been ordered to stay home after bonded asbestos fragments were found in mulch on the school grounds.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on Sunday confirmed the presence of bonded asbestos in mulch used at Liverpool West Public School, with students told to start their school week at home.

EPA officials revealed the school was listed as a priority site for testing after asbestos was found in mulch supplied by the same manufacturer at the Rozelle Interchange and other sites across Sydney.

Tainted mulch a problem at multiple sites

Several parts of the city’s Rozelle Parklands in the city’s inner-west were closed last month after the recycled mulch used across various projects – including a children’s playground – were found to contain the contaminated mulch.

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Yesterday, NSW EPA chief executive Tony Chappel said the results from Liverpool West Public School were concerning and his organisation would work around the clock to ensure the school community’s safety.

“On Friday afternoon (9 February), I was advised the school was a potential site,” a statement from Mr Chappel.

“As a result, our officers and a licensed asbestos assessor were sent out first thing Saturday morning to test and this afternoon, we were notified that one sample contained a single piece of bonded asbestos.”

He said the site would be secured urgently, with clean-up and replacement of the mulch undertaken today.

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NSW Health advises ‘low-risk’ situation

“We understand that finding asbestos at a school is extremely concerning for families and we are working as quickly as possible to get to the bottom of this situation,” Mr Chappel said.

As part of its investigation, the EPA conducted more than 100 tests at various Syndey sites. Thirteen returning a positive result for bonded asbestos, which NSW Health advises is a low risk to public health.

For Liverpool West Public School, the discovery has prompted the enactment of its asbestos protocol, with the school telling families that students will be taught remotely on Monday 12 February and Tuesday 13 February until the site is deemed safe.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]