The company that supplied mulch found to be contaminated with asbestos across Sydney including at a primary school has launched a legal challenge against the environmental watchdog as it fights to keep selling the product.
Greenlife Resource Recovery has filed an appeal in the state’s land and environment court against the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The landscaping product manufacturer will challenge the prevention notice the EPA issued earlier this month banning it from selling mulch, after bonded asbestos was discovered in recycled garden mulch it supplied for the Rozelle parklands and other state infrastructure projects.
The order prevents Greenlife from moving mulch from its facility in Bringelly in south-western Sydney until the EPA completes its investigation.
So far, asbestos has been found across the city, most recently at three parks within the City of Sydney, but the agency is yet to identify the source of the contamination.
Greenlife’s lawyer, Ross Fox, told Guardian Australia the company felt it had been “unfairly maligned” and wanted to come to a “sensible” agreement with the EPA about how to deal with a stockpile of the mulch in question.
“While this matter is still an ongoing investigation, I think the EPA has acknowledged that it is a complex supply chain,” Fox said.
Asked if Greenlife wanted to “deal with” the mulch by continuing to sell it, Fox said “absolutely”.
Greenlife on Tuesday said the EPA had taken 12 samples of its mulch and it had received in writing the results showing that the product was free of asbestos contamination. Guardian Australia has contacted the EPA about this claim.
As part of the ongoing EPA investigation, bonded asbestos has been found in mulch supplied by Greenlife at a school, hospital, parks and several transport projects in Sydney as well as along a bridge in the south coast.
Friable asbestos, which poses a greater immediate risk to human health than bonded asbestos, was discovered in mulch at a park in Surry Hills on Monday.
The Guardian understands Greenlife’s challenge against the EPA was lodged with the court last week by VE Resource Recovery, the company which holds the environmental licence for the Greenlife facility.
The premier, Chris Minns, said the EPA would be defending their orders in court and was in discussions with the federal consumer watchdog about a product recall.
“We’re really concerned that that particular kind of [friable] asbestos, not the bonded asbestos, that kind of asbestos being found in a park in Sydney is deeply worrying,” he said.
“We [need to] make sure that compliance action is taken against companies that [we claim] are doing the wrong thing and that ultimately, the fines are in place to dissuade people from polluting our parks and our natural spaces.
“We cannot have a situation where major public facilities like … schools and parks have asbestos in them. The government is prepared to take action.”
Asked if mulch products had a future in NSW, the premier said he was “not aware of any other corporation or firm that may have been responsible for the distribution” of products containing asbestos.
“The firm, it’s reasonable to say, is fighting the suggestion that they’re responsible for the contamination within public facilities and public parks,” he said on Tuesday morning.
The government is finalising plans to increase fines for companies caught doing the wrong thing.