Little Bay Beach asbestos management

Keeping the community safe

Little Bay Beach

Detailed site investigation works are now complete and the beach is open. 

Pieces of material containing asbestos (mainly fibrous cement sheeting) have been found regularly at Little Bay Beach since an initial report in August 2020. Randwick City Council is continuing to inspect and remove visible material and is also developing options for longer term remediation.

Please do not touch, collect or pick up any material on the beach that may look like pieces of fibro sheeting. The material may be weathered and sometimes looks like shell or rock. Signage is in place at the entrance to the beach advising beach goers

On this page:

Background

On 2 August 2020, Randwick City Council was alerted to a social media notification from a local resident that they had found what appeared to be material containing asbestos at Little Bay Beach.

On 3 August 2020, Randwick City Council engaged specialist remediation contractors Trinitas Group and RMA Group to visit the beach and conduct a preliminary investigation. During this visit, 10 suspected asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were collected. All 10 samples returned positive for asbestos.

Specialist asbestos removal crews continued to search for and ‘emu pick’ asbestos containing material from 4 to 7 August 2020. While the picks were occurring, the area was barricaded off, signage installed and air monitoring undertaken.

In the first week period, approximately 100 visible ACM fragments were found across the north, west and southern section of the beach. All of them were removed and tested.

Council then appointed external expert consultants and asbestos removalists to undertake ongoing inspections of the beach, air monitoring and to visually detect and remove any material which was suspected to contain asbestos (this is referred to as ‘emu-picking’).

Since August, ongoing emu-picks have continued to find newly exposed materials containing asbestos. This indicates that material is continuing to come to the surface – likely through stormwater and tidal impacts.

Beach closure for Detailed Site Investigation (from 26 April - 30 April 2021)

The beach was temporarily closed to public access for from Monday 26 April to Friday 30 April 2021 for a detailed site investigation.

The detailed site inspection is required to help us better understand the location, source and extent of any materials containing asbestos at or near the beach. The works program has been carefully planned by Council and our external expert consultants to take place after the April school holiday period.

Map showing location of beach closure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the beach safe to swim at?

The material found is a form of bonded asbestos (fibro) which represents a low-level risk. The beach has been regularly cleared by a licensed asbestos assessor under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 to not pose an unacceptable risk to health and safety during normal use. We recommend that people do not touch or pick up any material on the beach that may look like fibro material or asbestos.

Given the ongoing discovery of asbestos fragments on the beach, it is likely the material is surfacing from nearby gullies which may have been used as landfill sites prior to 1988 when the adjacent Prince Henry Hospital was operating.

The beach was transferred to the care and control of Randwick City Council in 2008 and has continued to grow in popularity as an important recreation space for local residents and visitors alike.

Randwick Council understands the importance of this beach to the local community and we are currently working through options for remediating the beach and adjacent areas. This is a complex project and we are committed to keeping the community informed.

Interested residents can sign-up for email alerts about this project.

Where did the asbestos come from?

The source of the ACM fragments is currently unknown.

Future detailed investigations works are required to identify the extent of the contamination and locations and this will help understand more about its origins.

Anecdotal evidence from local residents who have lived in the area for many decades suggests the gullies leading to the beach may have been used as dumping sites in the twentieth century when the former Prince Henry Hospital site was in use. Such practices were not uncommon along the eastern suburbs coastline.

More research will be undertaken about historic practices at the beach as part of any future detailed investigations.

Example of asbestos containing material found at Little Bay Beach.Example of asbestos containing material found at Little Bay Beach.

What should I do if I find fibro pieces on the beach?

Do not to touch or pick up any material on the beach that may look like pieces of fibro sheeting. The material may be weathered and sometimes looks like shell or rock. Signage is located at the entrance to the beach to this effect.

If you find material and are concerned about it, please report it to Randwick Council via the contact numbers and email addresses on this page. Please include photographs of the location if possible to help our crews safely find and remove the material.

What is Randwick Council doing about it?

Randwick Council has engaged specialist asbestos removal contractors to regularly inspect the beach and remove and test asbestos containing material found. Such investigations have been ongoing since August 2020.

Further detailed investigation work is required in the future to help understand the location and extent of asbestos containing material at the beach.

What is a Detailed Site Investigation?

A Detailed Site Investigation is a process of taking samples of earth from the area to better understand any potential contaminants that may be under ground.

The detailed site investigation will involve closing the beach to all public access for up to two weeks. This will allow machinery on site to conduct approximately 45 test pits to excavate and collect soil samples for testing at an accredited laboratory. The test results will provide an important insight to what is located underground and will help finalise the Human Health Risk Assessment report and provide advice on how best to proceed with the future long-term management of Little Bay Beach.

Throughout the course of the detailed site investigation, the appropriate asbestos controls will be implemented by our accredited independent Licenced Asbestos Assessor, to ensure the safety of our contractors and the community.

The detailed site investigation will occur commencing 26 April 2021 for a period of up to two weeks.

When was Little Bay Beach be closed?

The beach closed to the public from 26 April to 30 April 2021 for a Detailed Site Investigation.

Are there currently any safety issues?

The type of bonded asbestos identified on Little Bay Beach is considered low risk however, beach users are advised not to touch or pick up suspect material. Independent accredited assessors have also confirmed that there is currently no unacceptable risk to human health from normal use of the beach. Ongoing visual and air monitoring confirm that Council’s asbestos management activities are keeping the beach safe for general use.

What is being done to keep the community and other beach users informed?

  • Letters were sent to around 3,500 local households and businesses on 16 December 2020, and again on 12 April 2021.
  • Updated information is being posted to the dedicated project page and to the Little Bay Beach webpage.
  • Initial signage was installed in early December 2020 and updated twice in April 2021.
  • VMS signage has been installed on approach to Little Bay.
  • Ongoing updates are also being provided via Council’s e-newsletter, social media and email notifications to subscribers.
  • Visits to nearby businesses were conducted on 20 April 2021.

Next steps

The collected soil samples will be sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis. The test results will help us understand what is located underground and will inform finalisation of the Human Health Risk Assessment report and any immediate actions that may be required and potential plans for the long-term management of the beach. When available, the detailed site inspection report will be published on Council’s website.

Signage at Little Bay Beach.

Documents and resources

Notifications

Reports

Clearance certificates and air monitoring reports

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

Contact information

Contact Randwick City Council for more information about the project.

More information about asbestos

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