27 February 2024

Council awaits permits for removal of 'low risk' asbestos pipes on South Coast beach

| Claire Sams
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A side view of a wave

The asbestos pipes on the beach are expected to be removed in the coming weeks. Photo: Jeremy Bishop.

Exposed asbestos-laden stormwater pipes on Surfside Beach are “low risk”, a South Coast council has said, but people are asked to stay away until they are removed.

Long-term coastal erosion and recent storm swells exposed the pipes and concrete slabs, with the council committing to fix the problem following a community meeting in January.

Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) infrastructure director Graham Attenborough said the council had engaged an asbestos specialist to conduct a risk assessment.

“The findings indicated a low risk, and the recommendations were to restrict public access and remove the exposed pipes in the medium term,” he said.

“Low risk indicates the material is in good and stable condition, which presents a negligible health risk in its current condition.”

ESC decided to temporarily close the northern end of the beach, which is north of Batemans Bay.

“However, the pipes and slabs are an eyesore on a lovely beach and as soon as we have the required permit from Marine Parks and endorsement from Crown Lands, we’ll have a licensed asbestos removal contractor safely remove and dispose of the old pipes,” Mr Attenborough said.

The permits were expected to take “at least” several more weeks to be approved, he said, with the clean-up to take up to a week.

The beach could then be reopened.

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Stormwater pipes still in use further north on the beach will also be encapsulated in concrete to mitigate health risks, though this work will take longer.

Mr Attenborough said heavy equipment would be needed on the beach for the work to be carried out.

“Ahead of the contractors coming in, council will improve access to the site, taking the opportunity to remove and mulch some of the trees and branches littering the beach after recent storms,” he said.

“We’ll strategically place the tree-root balls to help stabilise the bank and tidy up a few of the fallen trees to improve access for beach users at high tide.

”Some trees, however, will be left in place as they play a role in mitigating further erosion.”

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Erosion has been an ongoing issue for Surfside Beach.

Looking ahead, the council’s Coastal Management Program has identified beach nourishment as the most effective solution to address erosion at the northern end of Surfside Beach, which involves bringing sand in from another location.

Mr Attenborough said ESC was working with NSW Government agencies on the possibility of using sand from Clyde River dredging.

According to the Eurobodalla Open Coast Coastal Management Program, this would cost $250,000 per campaign and is estimated to occur every five to 10 years (on average).

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