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By Carrie Fellner July 25, 2020 - 12.02am

Asbestos has been discovered strewn along Central Coast beaches after erosion unearthed building waste buried in the dunes, years after authorities discovered the deadly fibre under a house that formerly belonged to disgraced Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

The Herald can reveal the asbestos has been found after last week's east coast low pummelled the region, forcing evacuations as homes partially collapsed.

Image1Asbestos and other building waste has been unearthed along Wamberal beach following severe erosion.

It's opened a fresh chapter in a long-running controversy over Central Coast Council's handling of the buried building waste, first exposed following a storm in 2016.

According to an Environment Protection Authority report, the waste was discovered buried in the embankment under 31 Ocean View Drive at Wamberal, a lavish holiday home boasting a Turkish steam bath and a colourful history.

It was owned by adman John Singleton before it shot to notoriety as the headquarters and favoured lunch spot of Mr Obeid's sub-faction known as the 'Terrigals'.

Image2However, Mr Obeid told the Herald he is confident there was never any waste buried at the property during his 17-year tenure, because it was underpinned by concrete pylons that went "60 feet into the ground".

Houses on Ocean View Drive teeter on the brink of the ocean after last week's east coast low. 

The waste is also understood to have been found under neighbouring properties, not owned by Mr Obeid.

Furious locals have accused the council of burying the waste with sand after promising to have it removed, and endangering lives by allowing it to disperse along the shore each time the strip is battered by storms.

Image3Deadly asbestos is washing up along Wamberal and Terrigal Beaches.

"The beach is riddled with asbestos," said Pat Aitken of Coastal Residents Incorporated. "This is an environmental disaster."

Liberal MLC Taylor Martin, whose grandfather died from mesothelioma, has been campaigning for a clean up after encountering a little girl playing with a piece of asbestos in 2018.

"For years all that I and others have asked is for the council to come and clean it up ... as any other landholder would be required to do," he said.

Mr Martin said surfers, lifeguards and community members were continually encountering fragments of asbestos floating in the water and on the shore. The council has insisted the situation is "low risk", given the quantities discovered.

Mr Obeid bought the property from Mr Singleton in 1979 and was a keen entertainer of his political allies. In 1996, Mr Obeid sold it to Paul McCloskey for $1 million.

Image431 Ocean View Drive at Wamberal, one of several homes where asbestos and other buried building waste was discovered in 2016. 

Mr McCloskey said an "entire bathroom floor" was among the building waste discovered in the dunes under his home and adjoining properties in 2016.

"I don't know who originally put it in," he said.

Mr Obeid said any suggestion he was to blame would be "absolute rubbish".

A spokesperson for Mr Singleton said he could hardly recall owning the property or who had purchased it from him.

"He did no renovations or work to it," she said. "It was just a little fibro shack."

Several residents suggested the waste was historically used as fill in an attempt to shore up the properties against erosion, before the dangers of asbestos were known. Asbestos is also believed to have been washed into the sea when homes were destroyed in a 1978 storm.

Following the 2016 erosion, a remediation report commissioned by council argued "inappropriate materials" needed to be removed from the beach immediately to prevent them being buried again and putting the public at risk.

The report did not make any findings as to who might have originally buried the waste. It was kept confidential until it was obtained by Mr Aitken after a freedom of information battle.

By April 2017 no action had been taken and Mr Aitken complained to the EPA that asbestos-ridden waste was still exposed between 31 Ocean View Drive and the ocean.

A council officer initially told the EPA the waste was "legacy waste buried a long time ago" on private property. He later clarified it was on public land and said it would be removed "today or tomorrow".

Central Coast Council allegedly covering over building waste including asbestos with sand in 2017 outside a house on Ocean View Drive in Wamberal.

After a two month delay, a council clean-up took place.

Mr Aitken said he "couldn't believe it" as he filmed excavators pushing sand over the top of the waste before all of it had been removed, circulating the footage widely online.

'Those homes should never have been built': The 40-year saga behind Wamberal beach erosion

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In a report to councillors last year, staff said they removed all visible surface material by hand that "potentially" contained asbestos.

"Upon completion ... staff placed sand from the surrounding beach around the toe of the embankment using an excavator, which is the subject of a short video circulating on the internet, to improve public safety adjacent to 31 Ocean View Drive Wamberal," the report said.

The following year, as sections of waste became exposed, council erected barricades and warning signs.

"That fell down within a couple of weeks," Mr McCloskey said.

In 2018 the council conducted air monitoring and found the risk to the public to be low "due to the site and nature of the material", including that it was wet and "in bonded form". That left Mr Martin incredulous, who said a child had been using the asbestos like chalk to draw on the pavement.

A council spokesperson said it was working to remove the debris that had washed up on the beach "as soon as possible", in line with its asbestos management policy.

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