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NSW regards loose-fill asbestos – slowly

by Maria Taylor

With 1021 houses in the ACT identified for a demolition and buyback scheme to eradicate the blight of Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos, pressure is mounting for neighbouring NSW to take a more active role in assisting landholders with asbestos in their homes.

A NSW parliamentary enquiry is underway thanks to a motion by Steve Whan Duty MLC for Monaro. Hearings will be held in Queanbeyan on 17 November and interested parties are encouraged to send submissions ahead of time via email and phone contacts at http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/asbestosinsulation. The bi-partisan committee is to establish how many homes are affected and the role government should play. Whan said the enquiry would also investigate whether advice given by NSW Health so far was adequate.

In terms of buildings, currently the only assistance being offered is Workcover NSW inspections. What happens after that remains ‘tough luck’. Queanbeyan resident Mike Bresnik said when he last enquired the Workcover technical protocols in the Queanbeyan area had yet to be finalised.

The Bresniks are among 12 homeowners in Queanbeyan with asbestos identified in the house. Theirs was identified with a 60 Minutes program 25 years ago, said Mike. Ten years ago he had the loose-fill asbestos in his roof cavity removed. There remains a feeling of risk that concerns his wife particularly when looking after their grand-daughter in the house.

Mike says he has witnessed a “legacy of inaction”. What happens he asks, with issues like a fire or even just maintenance?

 Rural home and no joy yet from NSW Workcover

Only a few homes have been identified in Palerang and in other rural areas so far. One of those is on a farm near Gundaroo. The owners, Maureen and Kevin Trevanion say they know they have loose-fill asbestos from previous private testing, but they don’t know how worried they should be for health reasons or the extent of the problem.

Maureen has written to her state Member Katrina Hodgkinson. She wrote on the 28 October, “I contacted Workcover to request testing around 2 months ago or maybe more.  In that time I have never once been contacted in regards to testing.  I have contacted Workcover at least twice since registering and it was only about 10 days ago that I was put through to the team working on the testing.

“After talking to a female team member I discovered that Workcover had not recorded that my house had already been identified as having loose fill (amosite) asbestos.  As [such] I require a technical inspection rather than testing to determine if I have asbestos in the ceiling.

“Apparently, Workcover has not yet identified the approved providers for the technical testing although I was told this was happening last week.  There does not appear to be any urgency to get this testing done.  Once the testing is complete then what??

“The technical testing will identify if I have asbestos in my house ceiling and living area.  However, the results are only good for that day on the particular stop where swabs are taken. It is loose fill and it moves around.  Air monitoring is the same issue and only good for that day at that place.

“I am dismayed that the NSW government does not seem to be trying to find a solution that will ensure the safety of the people living in these homes and their visitors,” she wrote.

[alert color=”C24000″ icon=”59141″]The Queanbeyan hearing will be help on 17 November in the Jim Snow Room at the RB Smith Community Centre on Crawford Street, business hours (exact hours check the website closer to the date). People who would like to make a statement are encouraged to say so along with a submission to asbestosinsulation@parliament.nsw.gov.au. Or check the website for further contact details.[/alert]

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