Ratepayers will be forced to pay more than $6000 in clean up costs for illegally dumped asbestos near Gunnedah.

Gunnedah Shire Council was recently advised that “several hundred kilograms” of asbestos dumped adjacent to Grain Valley Road, Goolhi, in early September did not meet the criteria for reimbursement by the NSW government.

Council deemed that the asbestos containing material waste posed an imminent hazard to the environment and to motorists. The amount of material was of a quantity and type that required removal, transport and site remediation by appropriately qualified and licensed persons.

As council had not budgeted for this clean up expense, the general manager exercised his delegated power of authority for urgent works to remove, transport and dispose of the waste, engage an occupational hygienist, and to remediate the site. This process included traffic control provided by council.

Council later requested reimbursement of $6284 in clean-up expenses through the NSW Environmental Protection Authority’s Illegally Dumped Asbestos Clean Up Program but was advised the waste did not present enough of a significant risk to the public or the environment to attract funding under that program – in part because it was contained and also due to the rural location of the dumped material.

When the matter was raised at the October council meeting, deputy mayor councillor Rob Hooke enquired about the likelihood of finding the perpetrators involved.

Council’s director planning and environmental services Andrew Johns said there were no witnesses and no evidence in the material linking to those involved.

“Investigations are ongoing but it’s not looking promising,” he said.

The maximum penalties for illegal dumping of asbestos in NSW is $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

Gunnedah council said the illegal dumping was a timely reminder ahead of National Asbestos Awareness Week on November 20-26.

By law, asbestos must removed and disposed of under strict conditions. These parameters are available at gunnedah.nsw.gov.au

A NSW Environment Protection spokesperson said to receive funding under the clean-up program, specific criteria must be met, including a requirement that the illegally dumped asbestos posed a significant risk to the public or environment.

“In this instance, the illegally dumped asbestos was considered not to pose a significant risk to the public or the environment due to its location and because it was largely contained,” the spokesperson said.

The risk would have been considered significant if the illegally dumped asbestos was broken up on the road or was in a location where there was regular foot traffic.

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