Asbestos at Warwick West SS is under investigation.
Asbestos at Warwick West SS is under investigation.

Asbestos scare hits school

PANICKED parents yesterday rushed to Warwick West State School to retrieve their children early, after concerns the existence and inadequate removal of asbestos was presenting a safety threat.

Shortly before going to print last night, the Daily News was contacted by parents who said it was their understanding asbestos was still present on the school grounds but could be removed today.

Warwick resident Bec Munro yesterday expressed her concerns over the disposal of the material and said although she didn't have children at the school, she knew of “at least seven” people who removed their children yesterday.

Mrs Munro said it was her understanding that uncovered asbestos had been transported in a vehicle to the Morgan Park waste facility, where it was refused by workers and reported to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Southern Downs Regional Council's director of planning and environment Ken Harris yesterday confirmed supervisors at the waste facility had discovered a contractor had improperly unloaded asbestos there on January 14.

Mr Harris commended the vigilance of the supervisors who contacted the relevant authorities and the material was removed the next day, with the contractor being issued with a fine and clean-up costs.

Mrs Munro said her main concern was that the school could be a danger to pupils and staff.

“There has been no issue of clearance – so the area hasn't been deemed safe for kids to go there,” she said.

“It may very well be safe as houses, but what about that one per cent chance they get sick in 20 years' time?

“If they can't guarantee somewhere our kids go for six or seven hours a day is safe, close the place down.”

Education Queensland yesterday confirmed it was investigating “an alleged incident” at the school and said it had been referred to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

It was claimed yesterday that further asbestos removal was done this week but this was unable to be verified last night.

Acting deputy director general of infrastructure services Graham Atkins said the school had restricted access to two classrooms, as well as the main entry to the school, and parents had been issued with a letter.

“The area is in a restricted worksite and was not accessible by staff or students,” he said.

But Rebecca Saunders, whose son attends the school, said the area was only cordoned off yesterday afternoon and was open and accessible when she dropped her son off that morning and all this week.

“That area wasn't concealed until (yesterday) and I think they only did it because people have found out,” she said. “I won't send my son back until they can guarantee me it is safe. They said it's still there but will be gone by Sunday.”

It is expected a substantial proportion of the school's 600 pupils may not attend school today due to safety fears.

Another asbestos incident last May involved a Warwick contractor who tried to dump asbestos illegally at the Morgan Park facility but was spared prosecution.

The contractor, who was unable be identified, removed the asbestos from a local building site without the required authorisation to transport it. It was rejected by dump staff and was stored at an undisclosed site before proper disposal.

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