Asbestos found at Castle Hill High School four years before Education Department took action

Asbestos found at Castle Hill High School four years before Education Department took action

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Disturbing discovery at Sydney school leaves thousands of teachers and students worried they’ve been breathing in asbestos for YEARS

  • A new document shows asbestos was found at Castle Hill High School in 2016
  • The positive test result was then submitted to the NSW Department of Education
  • However the department told Castle Hill High School no asbestos was found 
  • Students, teachers, and staff were exposed to the lethal material until May 2020
  • Remediation work at the school has since removed the risk of asbestos exposure

By Ashley Nickel For Daily Mail Australia

Published: | Updated:

Leaked documents have revealed NSW‘s largest high school likely had deadly asbestos fibres floating around its halls for four years.

Several of Castle Hill High School’s classrooms were closed for a month in 2020 after an asbestos test revealed the deadly material was in the school’s roof.

However a new document, obtained by news.com.au, revealed the NSW Department of Education received a positive asbestos test result from the school four years earlier in 2016, but told the school it had come back negative.

A new document has revealed the NSW Department of Education knew asbestos dust was present at Castle Hill High School (above) in 2016 but didn’t take action until 2020

A 2016 test result from independent testing facility ClearSafe Environmental Solutions showed that chrysotile asbestos and amosite asbestos was present at the school

Staff and students had been complaining for several years before 2020 that strange dust was falling from the ceilings.

Desperate teachers even collected samples themselves, in an attempt to urge the school to test for asbestos.

A test was finally submitted to an independent testing facility – ClearSafe Environmental Solutions – in 2016, which advised the dust contained chrysotile asbestos and amosite asbestos.

But the Department of Education told the high school the test came back clear. 

Member for Castle Hill Ray Williams said he learnt of the positive result last Thursday and slammed the Department of Education for putting students and teachers at risk of exposure to the lethal material.

Students and staff had been so worried about strange dust falling from the school ceiling they had collected their own samples to urge the school to test for asbestos prior to the 2020 revelation

‘The teachers and parents believe the health of students, teachers and staff at Castle Hill High School has been severely compromised following years of exposure to asbestos,’ Mr Williams said in a statement.

‘The teachers and parents of CHHS have made numerous complaints regarding Asbestos to the Department of Education over several years which still remain unanswered.’

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she only recently learnt of the positive test and confirmed it would be subject to investigation.

‘I was made aware last month of allegations regarding mismanagement of asbestos in 2016 at Castle Hill High School,’ she said.

The Department of Education says Castle Hill High School (above) is now safe from asbestos exposure

‘These are serious allegations that are the subject of investigation by both the Department of Education’s Professional and Ethical Standards unit and SafeWork NSW.’

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson confirmed asbestos is no longer a health threat at the school. 

‘The department is confident there are no current asbestos issues at the school. Remediation work at the school was completed in 2020 and 2021,’ they said. 

From May 16 to June 15 in 2020 remediation work involving the construction of a second roof was carried out at the school after asbestos was found in the ceiling

‘All air monitoring undertaken at the time returned results below or equal to the minimum detection limit.

‘Testing was completed to ensure the areas were fully remediated and clearance certificates issued before the area was open to students and staff, in strict accordance with SafeWork NSW protocols.’

From May 16 to June 15 in 2020 remediation work involving the construction of a second roof was carried out at the school after asbestos was found in the ceiling.

NSW DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FULL STATEMENT (2020) 

‘Earlier this year, the Department of Education undertook a proactive roof cavity inspection program. This found previously unknown asbestos at Castle Hill High School within the roof.

‘As a precaution, classes were moved to other rooms and access to the top floors of certain blocks was restricted. Remediation work, which included installing an additional ceiling directly under the existing ceiling, started on 16 May 2020 and was completed 15 June 2020.

‘Air monitoring was conducted throughout the remediation work and this consistently returned results below the minimum detection limit, which means there was a low or negligible risk of exposure to airborne hazardous material.

‘All work was completed in accordance with SafeWork NSW regulations and a clearance certificate was issued by an independent hygienist confirming students and staff can safely occupy the rooms. The top floors have reopened and classes have resumed.

‘Throughout this process, the Education Department has updated the school community and held multiple meetings with staff. The Department also has an Incident Report and Support Hotline for anyone with additional concerns.

‘An independent hygienist has advised the potential for exposure to asbestos is low, however, staff who wish to be tested for asbestos-related conditions have been asked to consult their GP. Staff have also been offered onsite counselling support and students have school counsellors available. Concerned individuals can also record their details on the National Asbestos Exposure Register.

‘The department was informed by the staff member during a staff briefing that pieces of the ceiling may have fallen on them. The independent hygienist was on hand to discuss the potential exposure and advise staff to place their name on the National Asbestos Register. Testing of the ceiling tiles was conducted on 13 May 2020 indicating that the ceiling tiles did not contain asbestos.

‘The department acknowledges that even the smallest traces of hazardous materials can be an unsettling experience for our school communities. The department’s role is to be vigilant across all schools, and to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff at all times.’

RAY WILLIAMS’ FULL STATEMENT

‘Last Thursday afternoon I met with teachers and parents of Castle Hill High School.

‘During this meeting I was provided with information including a positive test for Asbestos which was undertaken at Castle Hill High School in 2016.

‘Following this 2016 Asbestos test at Castle Hill High School, the school community was advised it was negative for Asbestos, when it was in fact positive.

‘The teachers and parents believe the health of students, teachers, and staff of Castle Hill High School has been severely compromised following years of exposure to Asbestos.

‘The teacher and parents of CHHS have made numerous complaints rega5rding Asbestos to the Department of Education over several years which still remain unanswered.

‘As the Member for Castle Hill, I have a responsibility to ensure the safety of my community.’ 

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