Asbestos contamination sparks pop-up Gumtree soil warning

Calderwood: The section contaminated with asbestos.
Calderwood: The section contaminated with asbestos.

Illawarra residents buying or booking “clean fill” on classifieds website Gumtree may soon see a pop-up message from the Environment Protection Authority warning of asbestos and other contamination risks.

The EPA and councils are receiving increasing numbers of reports of soil delivered with promises that it is clean, only to find that it is contaminated with building and demolition waste, general rubbish, chemicals, heavy metals or asbestos.

In the Illawarra recently several homes and business were caught up in the contaminated aggregate supplied from Wollongong Recycling (a subsidiary of Bingo) – which contained asbestos.

From November, some searches for fill on Gumtree will prompt an EPA advertisement to pop up warning consumers to make sure any soil they accept is clean and good quality.​

“We know dodgy operators advertise their ‘clean’ or ‘certified’ fill through classified ads websites, roadside signage, letter box drops and sometimes even door-knocking directly,” EPA director of waste compliance Greg Sheehy said.

“These sorts of scams are not a new problem but one that is occurring with increasing prevalence, particularly in rural and semi-rural areas where property owners are often looking for clean fill to level out a yard or do some landscaping.”

Homes at Avondale, Helensburgh, Primbee, Mt Pritchard and Yerrinbool were also discovered to have received contaminated aggregate.

The major destination of the contaminated aggregate was Lendlease development Calderwood Valley, near Albion Park, where hundreds of home sites are now in limbo while the EPA works out what to do with thousands of tonnes of material used to make retaining walls.

The EPA advises DIY renovators to make sure they get fill from a reputable supplier, be there when it is delivered so you can inspect it, and record details including names and licence numbers of any delivery drivers.