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Asbestos Contamination Spreads to St. John of God Hospital, North Richmond

Feb 16, 2024

Asbestos has been discovered at St.John of God Hospital in North Richmond, raising concerns of potential criminal conduct, according to the New South Wales  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The EPA confirmed the presence of bonded asbestos in mulch at various new locations around Greater Sydney , including the hospital in North Richmond, Woolworths in Kellyville, and a Transport for NSW park in Wiley Park.

In a statement St John of God said the mulch was tested as a part of the EPA’s investigation into asbestos in mulch across Sydney, and was found within a securely fenced area of the hospital’s redevelopment construction site, not accessible by patients, visitors or caregivers. 

Asbestos has been found at St John of God Hospital in North Richmond

“NSW Health advises bonded, or non-friable asbestos, is considered low risk to human health and the environment. Our priority is the safety of our caregivers and patients, and we are taking all necessary steps as directed by the EPA. The area will remain securely fenced until the necessary remediation works are complete,” it said.

Several schools, including Penrith Christian School in Orchard Hills and St Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park, have been identified as having received mulch from the same contaminated source. While over 70 garden beds and parks are undergoing testing across Sydney, at least 25 sites have already been confirmed to contain the potentially life-threatening material.

NSW EPA Chief Executive Tony Chappel told 2GB Radio that the investigation is exploring multiple lines of inquiry, including the possibility of foul play or criminal conduct. “We are looking at multiple lines of inquiry absolutely, including allegations of foul play or criminal conduct,” he said.

The EPA clarified that there is currently no evidence of asbestos contamination at the identified schools, and the testing is purely precautionary. 

“Schools have made individual risk assessments based on the amount of mulch on site, with the majority remaining open and one school choosing to close,” The EPA said in a statement.

“Those that remain open are advised to keep students and staff away from garden beds in and around the school sites, and to expect to see EPA officers on the ground throughout the day,” it said.

The new findings come one days after the NSW government announced the establishment of an Asbestos Taskforce, along with an increased workforce of public servants, including firefighters, to support the EPA in its investigation. The EPA said the government’s primary focus is on “contact tracing” along the complex supply chain and ensuring prompt testing, reporting, and management of any positive results.

The EPA has advised all landowners to implement measures to prevent public access and commence the removal of contaminated mulch. 

Regular updates on positive sites will be provided on the EPA website, and individuals with concerns about mulch are encouraged to contact the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 or at info@epa.nsw.gov.au

 

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