NBN workers leave asbestos waste near primary school

Bags full of deadly asbestos fibres left metres from primary school by workers building the National Broadband Network.
Bags full of deadly asbestos fibres left metres from primary school by workers building the National Broadband Network.

Parents are outraged that bags full of deadly asbestos fibres were dumped metres from a Ballarat primary school.

Large plastic bags filled with asbestos material were left in front of a Telstra exchange earlier this month by workers building the federal government’s National Broadband Network.

The exchange is located on the busy Whitehorse Road intersection in Mount Clear and is bordered by a path children walk along to get to Mt Clear Primary School.

Students from the nearby Mount Clear Secondary College and Damascus College also walk past the site, which is next to a children’s road crossing.

A staff member working on the project said the material was dumped on May 17 and left for a weekend after being driven around Ballarat in the back of utes for three weeks. 

Mt Clear Primary School principal Chris Simmons said the school was not informed about the incident.

Local residents living close to the exchange have expressed concern at the possibility of their children being exposed to deadly asbestos dust.

Korrina Harnden, who has three children under 10 years of age at Mt Clear Primary School, said it was unacceptable for asbestos to be dumped metres away from where children walk to school.

“I just instantly think cancer. It’s a scary word, it’s a scary thing. It’s not good enough, that close to a school,” she said.

Ms Harnden and her partner Mark Braybrook have lived on Whitehorse Road for almost three years, about 100 metres from where the bags were piled.

Mr Braybrook said many people in the community knew of the dire effects of breathing in asbestos dust from the long-running James Hardie case.

“It’s the long-term health effects, it can cause tumours on the outside of the lung. It’s not a good thing at all,” he said.

“In this day and age I’m not sure how this can happen. They should be severely punished. It’s a major occupational health and safety issue.” 

Whitehorse Road resident Sean Bowley, who has lived in the area for a little over a year, said the road next to the exchange was often busy with both cars and pedestrians.

He said the wind was quite strong along the street, which could lead to the possibility of loose asbestos fibres being carried further from the site.

“I walk past that building regularly. It’s definitely scandalous. I can’t believe it – asbestos has been an issue for 20 years. It’s life-threatening,” he said.

“Children are walking past it all the time, children and parents. It’s very strange. Surely there are parties that should have overseen this process.”

Tinworth Business Solutions office manager Jackie Magee, whose business is directly across the road from the exchange, said she hadn’t noticed anything peculiar.

“We see the kids every day walking past that all the time ... and it’s extremely concerning if there was a chance they were exposed to it,” she said.

“People need to be aware of these things if it’s happening. If it hasn’t been done the way it should’ve someone should be held accountable.”

With the Australian Financial Review