February 18, 2019

Asbestos fine tied to councillor

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Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Mansour Razaghi said he became alarmed after seeing workers without complete asbestos protective gear working in close proximity to passing school children.

”The kids were just one or two metres away from the excavation machine and from where a worker was hand-picking the asbestos fragments from the soil,” he said.

The site also lacked appropriate fencing, public warning signs about asbestos and decontamination for trucks and workers leaving the site, Mr Razaghi said.

However, Cr Mehajer accused ”a third party” of planting some of the potentially deadly material in a bid to discredit him.

Cr Mehajer said long-buried asbestos had been found but later questioned the quantity, professing to be ”familiar with every soil grain” at the John Street address.

”For me to come across contaminated soil with asbestos really does raise concerns to who trespasses my site after hours and dumps such hazardous material to target me,” Cr Mehajer said in an email.

Asked who he thought was behind such a plot, Cr Mehajer responded: ”Maybe you?”

But another Auburn councillor, Tony Oldfield, dismissed Cr Mehajer’s suspicions as ”a really stupid comment”.

”The reason we found out about asbestos was by accident,” said Cr Oldfield. ”The complaints from local residents were actually about the dust coming from the site.”

Mr Razaghi claims asbestos sheeting was also being removed from an adjoining Ann Street property owned by Cr Mehajer and damaged by fire.

Work has resumed at the site this week.

A Department of Education and Communities spokesman said Lidcombe Public School had been unaware of the asbestos exposure when contacted by Fairfax Media this week.

But Cr Mehajer denied that there had been any safety breaches by his company, Sydney Project Group, or its subcontractor, pointing to an air-monitoring report that found calculated concentrations of asbestos fibres to be less than the reporting limit of 0.01 fibres/mL.

”I do go that extra mile and undertake further [safety] procedures [that] not even a site the size of Barangaroo will undertake,” he said.

WorkCover said it was satisfied with the asbestos management after visiting the Lidcombe site this week. Auburn Council said it would continue to monitor compliance.

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Asbestos fine tied to councillor

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