Mayor confident no one was endangered during asbestos scare

ALLEGATIONS that a community in regional NSW was repeatedly exposed to toxic asbestos waste because of council safety breaches have been dismissed by Gwydir mayor John Coulton as "unfair and misleading".

Asbestos Disease Foundation president Barry Robson travelled to Warialda, in the state's north-west this week, to investigate claims workers had been exposed to asbestos fibres during a water pipe replacement program earlier this year.

Others said council management had advised staff to describe broken asbestos sheeting as "general waste" when it was dumped at a council-run tip to avoid higher charges.

Mr Robson said he had "no doubt" staff needed to be better trained and called on WorkCover and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority to investigate.

He said it was "completely unacceptable" that workers in suburban streets were putting themselves and the community at risk.

Referring to allegations that water pipes had been cut without the right safety equipment, Cr Coulton said a potential problem had been flagged with the council in August last year, a full investigation had been carried out and action had been taken.

He said he was confident no staff member or resident had been endangered and that every worker who could potentially come into contact with asbestos had been appropriately trained and credited.

He also said he had "no knowledge" of safety breaches at the tip and dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated without proof.

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