ASBESTOS ALERT | Casula High School

The entrance to Casula High School. Picture: Chris Lane
The entrance to Casula High School. Picture: Chris Lane

Last week Liverpool Council announced $1 million remediation plans for the grounds of Casula High School, where part of the funds will be used to remove bonded asbestos, which it tracked back to being on the site since 2013.

The council has admitted it was inadvertently at fault and has been aware of the problem since 2015.

It has regularly done work to remove the asbestos since discovering it and it now has bigger works scheduled for the coming school holidays, including applying 500 millimetres of clean fill, covering the soil with a sealing membrane and then re-turfing the affected area – between the school buildings and the front boundary of the school.

Casula High School.

Casula High School.

Further, the $1 million works program will also improve drainage and update the school entrance. Chief executive officer Kiersten Fishburn said the council was working closely with the Department of Education since learning it had used contaminated fill.

A media release from Liverpool Council stated: “Liverpool City Council CEO Kiersten Fishburn said the council has worked very closely with the school and the Department of Education since it became aware that contaminated fill had inadvertently been used by council at the school.”

In a separate statement to the Champion, Ms Fishburn said: “This should not have happened but since the error was discovered we have been doing everything possible to develop and implement a remediation plan and ensure there was no risk to the public.

“Small quantities of bonded asbestos were inadvertently included with backfill material used around a stormwater pipe constructed in front of the school in 2013.

“The council found the material in September 2015 when it conducted a waste audit around its practices in handling and management of construction and demolition waste. Council staff and consultants have closely monitored the site.

“[They were] working under the supervision of the NSW Environment Protection Authority. Small quantities of fibro sheeting have been collected and disposed of safely.”

The council said the asbestos below the ground’s surface does not pose a risk to students.

Pieces of bonded asbestos have been found on the ground’s surface.

“The council has identified and removed small pieces of contaminated material from the surface on a regular basis,” Ms Fishburn said.

“Traces of asbestos below the surface do not pose a risk to students or teachers. Bonded asbestos, such as pieces of fibro, do not release fibres unless they are drilled or ground up. There is no evidence this occurred at the site.”

She said the plans had been scheduled for the school holidays to ensure it would not disrupt students’ learning and assured workers would be considered during remediation.

“Appropriate safety controls, including air monitoring, will be in place while work is under way.”

The Department of Education said Casula High School students and families were advised of the asbestos immediately.

“The welfare and wellbeing of students are the highest priorities for Casula High School. This included monitoring and making areas out of bounds as necessary,” a spokesman said.

“The school immediately implemented NSW Environment Protection Authority health safety guidelines after bonded asbestos fibres were found in cement sheet fragments on part of the school grounds.

“Parents and school staff were informed, respectively, via a note home with students and a meeting, of the issue and the remediation work.

“They will be updated early in 2018 about progress of the remediation work and associated landscaping at the front of the school.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool Council and Fairfield Council are currently calling for the NSW Government to develop a policy to reduce the high cost of disposal of asbestos waste that can encourage illegal dumping. 

“The application of the waste levy encourages illegal dumping. Removal of the levy should result in proper asbestos disposal,” Ms Fishburn said.

  • In August a playground at Warwick Farm Community Centre was found to contain pieces of bonded fibro containing asbestos. More: liverpoolchampion.com.au.