Asbestos sandpit sabotage fears

A SECURITY company has begun patrolling the playgrounds of a Sunshine Coast primary school amid fears that somebody is planting asbestos material in its sandpits.

Police said yesterday an investigation had been launched after pieces of material containing asbestos continued to be found at Tewantin Primary School.

The playgrounds and sandpits of the school are being swept for asbestos material every morning after bits of the potentially deadly debris were located in the grounds for a fourth time in two years.

Education Queensland said about $150,000 had been spent fixing asbestos-related problems at the school.

The sand of all 13 pits was sieved and a geofabric membrane layer installed underneath after it was suspected that dumped material was working its way out of the soil and into the sandpits.

Four trees around the sandpits were removed recently because it was believed they could be contributing to bringing asbestos to the surface. The latest scare came from a piece of material used for corrugated iron roofing that contained asbestos.

It was found in a sandpit earlier this month. The school contacted police after an expert confirmed the material “could not have naturally occurred in the sandpit”.

In a letter sent home to parents, principal Neil Jenkins said he was committed to keeping children and staff safe.

Mr Jenkins said no more asbestos material had been found since a school groundsman started inspecting sand pits every morning and a security company had begun patrols of the playgrounds.

Education Queensland acting deputy director-general Graham Atkins said the school had considered increasing the private security patrols.

“Sandpits and play equipment around the school have recently undergone an extensive rectification process, with sand being sieved and installed over brand new geofabric,” Mr Atkins said.

“This process, combined with advice from an asbestos expert, indicates that the latest asbestos-containing material could not have naturally occurred in the sandpit.

“Therefore, the school has contacted local police of the discovery and they will investigate this matter further.”

Police are still trying to determine if the asbestos material was deliberately planted at the school. Anyone with information that could help should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

ASBESTOS FACTS

  • Asbestos is highly toxic, causing a range of lung diseases that are slow to develop and in many cases deadly.
  • While asbestos is now banned from use, it was a component of thousands of different products used from the 1940s until the late 1980s.
  • Asbestos poses a risk if fibres become airborne, are inhaled and reach deep into the lungs in sufficient quantities.
  • It can take decades for asbestos-related diseases to become apparent.

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