School reopens after full remediation of contaminated mulch

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Staff, students and families of Sydney’s Liverpool West Public School were officially welcomed back on school grounds this morning, Monday 11 March, after full clearance from an independent hygienist ended the recent contaminated mulch saga that has impacted multiple NSW school and playground sites this year.

The clearance follows extensive remediation work undertaken over the past few weeks after asbestos was found in mulch laid at the state primary school.

Asbestos was previously identified at Penrith Christian School at Orchard Hills, St Luke’s Catholic College at Marsden Park, Liverpool West Public School in Sydney’s south-west and Allambie Heights Public School on the city’s northern beaches, as well as other sites across the state.

A major supply-chain investigation turned up 75 asbestos-contaminated sites, but more could still be revealed from a ‘handful’ of still-pending tests for tainted mulch.

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Polluter pays – but at what cost?

Premier Chris Minns said a ‘polluter-pays regime’ remained in place and that he would wait until the investigation was complete before revealing the total figure on remediation costs or the potential bill for taxpayers.

Many of the contaminated mulch supplies have been confirmed as being linked to Sydney’s Greenlife Resource Recovery, although Greenlife is challenging an EPA prevention order in court and says it is confident the mulch left its facility free of contamination.

More than 2,500 tonnes of potentially contaminated material have been removed from Liverpool West Public School alone, under the guidance of the hygienist in line with Work Health & Safety legislation.

All areas of concern based on the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigation have been remediated with all mulch now removed.

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The main classrooms and teaching areas of the school are open for students and teachers, with continued reinstatement of landscaping materials over coming weeks not impacting school operations.

Safe return to classrooms

Since the closure of Liverpool West Public School on 11 February, the school’s 600 students had been forced to continue their learning at Gulyangarri Public School.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Early Learning, Prue Car said:

“We are pleased to be able to confirm a return to face-to-face learning at Liverpool West Public School from Monday. We cannot thank the incredible school staff and teams across the department enough. They have worked around the clock to get us to this point, where we can safely return our students and teachers to their classrooms.”

Ms Car also thanked “all students at both Liverpool West and Gulygangarri, their families and carers, for their support and understanding”.

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“Safety has always been our top priority. The decision to temporarily close the school site was not taken lightly, and we appreciate the community’s patience while we managed the situation as safely and as quickly as possible,” she said.

“This has been an uncertain time for many in the Liverpool West Public School community, and I am thankful to the Department for responding in a way that puts the health and safety of our kids first, while minimising disruptions to learning,” said Member for Liverpool Charishma Kaliyanda.

“Families at Liverpool West Public School have been waiting for their kids to be able to return to campus. I know today’s news will come as a relief to many of them.”

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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]