Claims of major illegal asbestos dumping in Black Hill

THREE government agencies are investigating allegations of a major case of illegal asbestos dumping in Ballarat.

The allegations are believed to be separate to incidents in Sussex Street and Melbourne Road and involve more than 80 truckloads of untreated asbestos-contaminated soil dumped in Black Hill by Telstra contractors.

The soil comes from pits and pipes being removed or repaired in preparation for the NBN in a process called remediation, which is required to allow for fibre-optic cables to be rolled out.

Local residents were not informed about the dumping and were unaware of its potentially hazardous nature.

Visionstream, the contractor tasked with remediation work in Ballarat, said it was not aware of any specific allegations.

But Comcare, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria and Worksafe Victoria all said that they were aware of and investigating the issue.

"This matter is under investigation by Worksafe Victoria," an EPA Victoria spokeswoman said.

"I've never heard anything bigger than this in terms of sheer size or stupidity."

"EPA has been in contact with Worksafe and offered its advice and support if required.

"EPA controls the disposal of waste asbestos, which must be done at EPA licensed landfills."

Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia president Barry Robson said if proven correct, the Black Hill incident could be the worst case of illegal dumping he’d ever seen.

"I’ve never heard anything bigger than this in terms of sheer size or stupidity," he said.

Mr Robson said contaminated soil had to be either sealed in cement or buried beneath five metres of fresh soil.

Federal workplace relations minister Bill Shorten has called for Telstra to set a fund to compensate workers potentially exposed to the cancer causing material.

Telstra, unions and other groups are set to meet on Monday to discuss the extent of the problem and the remedies.

As well as in Ballarat, incidents of asbestos exposure related to the NBN rollout have been reported in suburban areas in NSW, West Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

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