Legacy asbestos fill sites in NSW
We have worked with local councils and NSW government agencies to reassess sites contaminated with legacy asbestos.
The EPA has worked with local councils and NSW government agencies to re-assess the inferred location, extent, and status of sites contaminated with legacy asbestos fill located primarily in Western Sydney, NSW. The asbestos contamination is a result of former manufacturer James Hardie Industries disposing of asbestos waste materials as landfill between the 1950s and 1970s.
Assessment of legacy fill sites
Between 2017 and 2022, the EPA led an assessment program reviewing legacy asbestos fill sites. The assessment was coordinated by the Testing Reference Group created under the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA), now called the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee (NACC). The EPA was supported by NSW Health, SafeWork NSW, and City of Parramatta Council being the most affected local government area.
The program included:
- stakeholder engagement with potentially affected residents and the community
- a review of available information to estimate the location and extent of the legacy sites
- a risk based, voluntary sampling program on residential properties
- installation of make-safe measures where asbestos was identified
- provision of precautionary advice and asbestos management plans to ensure ongoing protection of residents and the community.
The findings of the program are presented in the Legacy asbestos fill sites in NSW – Assessment Update 2022 (PDF 251KB).
Based on multiple lines of evidence, 50 sites have been identified as being affected by legacy asbestos. These sites include many individual residential properties as well as open space parkland, and commercial/industrial properties.
Most sites are in the local government area of Parramatta, with some sites also located across Cumberland, Blacktown, Liverpool, Fairfield and the Wingecarribee local government areas.
The 2022 assessment report supersedes the James Hardie Asbestos Waste Contamination Legacy Summary Project Report, released by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) in April 2010.
The Legacy Asbestos Fill Sites in NSW assessment update 2022 provides an evidence base for the long-term management of the issue. The NSW Government is considering options and strategies to manage identified legacy asbestos fill sites. Precautionary advice and asbestos management plans remain in place.
Information for residential property owners and tenants
Voluntary sampling on residential properties
The EPA conducted voluntary sampling at homes in Granville, Harris Park, and Rosehill between 2017-2020.
The EPA has supported residents to manage any asbestos contamination identified. This has included EPA contractors installing interim management measures such as capping and provision of asbestos management plans for ongoing management of identified risks.
This sampling process and interim management measures have been at no cost to landowners.
If you are concerned your property may be in an affected area, please call 131 555.
Health risk from asbestos exposure
While there is only a low health risk posed by occasional exposure to asbestos, it is still very important to take precautions to minimise exposure.
Asbestos fibres that are breathed in pose a risk to health. However, breathing in asbestos fibres does not necessarily mean health problems will occur.The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease varies from person to person and depends on how many fibres have been breathed in, for how long, the type of fibre, and the age of first exposure.
Reducing risk of exposure
If soil with asbestos fill is left covered and undisturbed so that asbestos fibres are not available to be breathed in, it will not pose a health risk to you.
You can ensure any asbestos present at your property remains a low risk by:
- maintaining good ground cover, like grass or mulch
- avoiding digging and mowing grass on a low setting.
Detection of asbestos during air monitoring
During the assessment program, asbestos air monitoring results at properties located on legacy fill sites were below detectable levels of asbestos, indicating a low health risk.
The EPA has worked with affected councils and public land managers who have carried out sampling and management of public spaces, which include capping and improving grass cover. Asbestos management plans are also in place for these areas to ensure the community’s health is protected.
Some works are ongoing with NSW Government agencies continuing to support councils to ensure sites are appropriately managed and the community’s health remains protected.
Commercial/industrial and infrastructure corridors
Commercial/industrial properties in legacy asbestos fill sites have generally been sampled and managed through previous redevelopment or through current EPA licences, notices, or planning processes. The risk at these sites is lower as potential asbestos is often covered by buildings, concrete, or asphalt with limited access to soil.
Owners and tenants of commercial/industrial properties are advised to maintain an asbestos management plan for their property.
If you are concerned your property may be in an affected area or the management of legacy asbestos on your property, please call 131 555.
1950s – 1970s
Former manufacturer James Hardie Industries provided asbestos waste to fill low lying areas at sites mainly around Western Sydney.
2007 – 2009
Between 2007-2009, the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) used records provided by James Hardie-related entities to identify up to 47 potential legacy asbestos fill sites in NSW.
DECCW were able to inspect 27 of these sites, whilst 15 sites could not be located based on the information available, and a further five were identified as having been significantly redeveloped and/or managed by a Government Authority and therefore did not warrant further action. One site was found to be a duplicate.
During the inspections 11 sites showed no visible signs of exposed asbestos and 16 sites had asbestos identified, generally in small amounts in bonded form. None of the inspected sites were found to be a “significant risk” to human health or the environment in their current state.
2009 – 2010
The 2010 report was released by DECCW. The findings resulted in DECCW recommending that local Councils implement a range of site management actions for these sites to minimise potential exposure to the asbestos fill. No testing of the soil was undertaken at the time.
2016 – 2017
Between August 2016 and April 2017, investigations by the City of Parramatta Council found friable asbestos (a more dangerous form) in the soils of several residential properties located within a site assessed in the DECCW 2010 report.
In April 2017, the NSW Ombudsman released the report Asbestos: How NSW government agencies deal with the problem. This report recommended that testing be carried out at all legacy asbestos fill sites, and that the NSW Government fund the remediation of affected sites. The report also recommended that residential sites found to contain appreciable quantities of friable asbestos should be acquired and/or remediated at NSW Government expense. The Government has agreed in principle to these recommendations.
2017 – 2022
In May 2017, the EPA commenced an assessment of those sites identified by DECCW in 2010. The assessment objectives were to review the location and status of legacy asbestos fill sites and to implement sampling and management strategies with the support of local councils and other government agencies. The EPA has assessed 50 sites for legacy asbestos fill.
Interim management measures have been installed at 26 affected residential properties.
The EPA has completed the program of works and assessment findings are presented in the 2022 assessment update.