Joint Asbestos Investigation Update

No further evidence of asbestos contamination has been found at the first 23 waste sites tested as part of the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation’s (DESI) ongoing investigation.

All samples that were tested have now returned negative results for asbestos, except the one sample taken from NuGrow’s Swanbank facility.

That sample was confirmed by laboratory testing to contain asbestos, described as two fibrous fragments each measuring approximately 1.5mm by 3mm.

DESI will continue its investigations and has expanded its inspection and testing outside of South East Queensland, with samples taken from six sites so far.

DESI has required NuGrow to provide information about the potential sources of asbestos and is also conducting its own enquiries into how the asbestos may have been brought on site.

As an additional precaution, the Department has also expanded air quality monitoring in the Swanbank area today to specifically test for the presence of any air-borne asbestos. These results will likely be available next week.

DESI, Queensland Health and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) will continue working closely to assess any risks to workers at sites where the material from NuGrow has been distributed, and to the general public.

WHSQ is engaging with workplaces that have received material from NuGrow’s Ipswich facility since February 2, and will continue to provide updated information about sites which may have received potentially contaminated soil on its website.

The WHSQ website also provides advice and guidance for people concerned about the soil products they have purchased.

The community can also contact the DESI Pollution Hotline on 1300 130 372, press 2.

DESI began proactive, precautionary testing at landfill operations, transfer stations, landscape suppliers, composters and mulch suppliers in South East Queensland on 20 February 2024.

Quotes attributable to Brad Wirth, Executive Director, Compliance, Department of Environment, Science and Innovation:

“Today’s results have shown us that the risk of asbestos contamination in soil, mulch and compost in Queensland is low, and we hope that these results bring some comfort to the community.

“While the source of asbestos at the NuGrow site is yet to be determined, it’s timely to remind waste operators of their obligations to properly inspect incoming waste for asbestos and to have procedures in place to segregate and manage any asbestos received.

“Determining whether NuGrow has complied with its environmental responsibilities, is a focus of the department’s investigation.”

Quotes attributable to Peter McKay, Regulator, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland:

“WHSQ’s investigation into the supply chain of potentially contaminated soil is continuing.

“We will continue to keep our website updated with the location of public sites which may have received this material.

“Given the nature of its use and the extremely small size of the one positive sample found, the risk to the public is low, but we will continue to take no chances.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Health Executive Director (Health Protection and Regulation) John Piispanen:

“There is a low public health risk, based on everything we know at this time.

“We would encourage members of the public to take sensible and practical precautions when handling garden soil, compost and mulch.

“This might include wearing gardening gloves, wearing a P2 mask and washing your hands after using the material.”

/Public Release. View in full here.