January 23, 2019

NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT.

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

More than 5300 NSW homes may be riddled with deadly Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation and the state government should demolish and buy affected properties, a parliamentary report has found.

The findings, unanimously supported by government, Labor and crossbench MPs, leave the Baird government potentially facing a $5 billion bill should it follow the Australian Capital Territory government’s lead and buy back the homes.

Mr Fluffy is the former contractor that used loose-fill asbestos fibres for roof insulation in homes in Canberra and parts of NSW in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fears that the fibres pose acute health risks.

NSW authorities are investigating how many properties contain loose-fill insulation. The report said 59 homes have been identified so far “with the potential for there to be many hundreds more”.


PricewaterhouseCoopers has been commissioned to investigate the extent of Mr Fluffy fibres in NSW. An interim report said that, based on the firm’s installation capacity, up to 5376 homes may contain the insulation.

Using a different calculation, based on the distance between Canberra and affected NSW council areas, the assessors found up to 1110 homes may be affected. Their report said the discrepancy between the figures highlighted the need for further investigation.

The parliamentary report condemned “historic inaction of successive NSW governments in responding to this issue”. The gravity of evidence received by the inquiry promoted the report to be released two months earlier than expected.

It found the presence of loose-fill asbestos fibres rendered a home “ultimately uninhabitable”, posing risks to residents, visitors and the public.

The report recommended a statewide buy-back and demolition scheme for all affected residences, based on the ACT model.

The federal government is providing a concessional loan of up to $1 billion to the ACT to buy back and demolish about 1000 houses affected by Mr Fluffy. The NSW government may face a bill five times that, if the cost is extrapolated to the PricewaterhouseCoopers worst-case estimate.

The federal government has refused financial assistance to NSW, saying legal responsibility for affected homes lies with the state government.

The parliamentary report said owners of Mr Fluffy homes should be legally required to disclose that their home is affected, so prospective buyers are informed.

It also called for affected NSW properties to be tagged to protect tradespeople and emergency services workers. In the case where home occupants wished to immediately leave their homes, financial assistance for crisis accommodation and short-term remediation work should be provided, the report said.

Free ceiling inspections are presently available for NSW properties built before 1980 in areas thought to be affected. The report said such testing should be mandatory – potentially involving tens of thousands of homes.

Twenty-six NSW council areas have been identified as potentially affected by loose-fill asbestos. In Sydney, they include Manly, Parramatta, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, Bankstown, Warringah and The Hills councils.

A spokesman for Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government would consider the report.

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NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Major Asbestos Violations Result in $370,000+ in Fines for Two Companies

An investigation by Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) into a demolition project at a Seattle apartment building found a total of 19 willful and serious safety and health violations. As a result, the two businesses involved in the project have been fined a total of $379,100.

Partners Construction Inc., of Federal Way, Wash., was cited for a total of 14 willful and serious violations and fined $291,950. Asbestos Construction Management Inc., of Bonney Lake, Wash., was fined $87,150 for five willful and serious violations.

The violations were for asbestos exposure to workers, asbestos debris left on site and other violations that occurred during demolition of an apartment building in the Fremont neighborhood. The three-story, five-unit apartment building was originally constructed with “popcorn” ceilings, a white substance containing asbestos fibers, as well as asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can lead to asbestosis, a potentially fatal disease, as well as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Removal of asbestos-containing building materials must be done by a certified abatement contractor who follows safety and health rules to protect workers and the public from exposure to asbestos. The contractor also must ensure proper removal and disposal of the asbestos materials.

Partners Construction Inc., a certified asbestos abatement contractor at the time, was hired by the building owner to remove the asbestos before the apartment building was demolished.

After several weeks, Partners provided the building owner with a letter of completion indicating that all asbestos had been removed. When L&I inspectors responded to a worker complaint, the inspectors found that the removal work had not been done and approximately 5,400 square feet of popcorn ceiling remained throughout, as well as asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

Partners came back to finish the abatement work; however, due to a prior history of willful violations, L&I was in the process of revoking Partners’ certification to do asbestos abatement work. In May, Partners was decertified and went out of business.

A new company, Asbestos Construction Management Inc. (ACM), owned by a family member of the Partners owner, took over the job using essentially the same workers and certified asbestos supervisor as Partners, and sharing the same equipment.

A subsequent L&I inspection of ACM found many of the same violations as in the Partners’ inspection. L&I has initiated decertification action against ACM.

The employers have 15 business days to appeal the citation.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

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Major Asbestos Violations Result in $370,000+ in Fines for Two Companies

Asbestos homes compensation agreed

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Asbestos homes compensation agreed

Boulder City bypass project hits snag with naturally occurring asbestos discovery

CARSON CITY – Discovery of naturally occurring asbestos in the soils in a section of the proposed Boulder City bypass will cause a delay in the project as the state conducts a more comprehensive study.

“This was a bombshell that was dropped,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday during a meeting of the state Transportation Board.

John Terry, assistant director of the state Transportation Department, said Monday the department’s own environmental studies conducted earlier did not detect the asbestos, which was discovered by a team of UNLV researchers and reported in December. ”We have never dealt with this before.”

He said after the UNLV findings were released, the department immediately assembled a task force to determine the most suitable way to progress with the project given the highly sensitive nature of the potential health risk to workers and residents in Boulder City and the surrounding areas.

The news also caused the department to cancel a contract for a frontage road.

Terry said the project would require a lot of dirt to be moved, resulting in a lot of flying dust, which could carry asbestos particles. Any asbestos-carrying dust would pose health risks to workers and nearby communities, board members were advised. Federal and international agencies have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen.

“This could be a show stopper,” said Sandoval, who chairs the Transportation Board.

The Transportation Department’s task force determined the most appropriate strategy moving forward would be to procure an expert to do additional soil testing and a full analysis for asbestos concentrations within the project area. The Transportation Board authorized the department to spend up to $400,000 to hire a consultant to perform the study.

Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, said the agency has hired its own consultant, who has discovered the naturally occurring asbestos in two of the 10 holes surveyed. Quigley said 200 holes would be surveyed and the results should be known by May 21.

The RTC is joining with the state to finance the bypass.

Terry did not estimate the length of the delay.

In other action, the board approved spending $5.5 million for safety improvements and repaving of cracking surfaces on State Route 157, known as Kyle Canyon Road in Clark County.

The state originally put up $2 million for the $20 million project, which is mostly on federal land. The added $5.5 million will extend the road surface for another 10 years, Terry said.

The department accepted $20 million from the city of Las Vegas as its share for right of way and construction of the Martin Luther King extension over Charleston Boulevard.

And the department is contributing $35 million for construction of the airport connector project in Clark County, expected to cost more than $60 million, said Rudy Malfabon, director of the state Transportation Department.


Boulder City bypass project hits snag with naturally occurring asbestos discovery

Asbestos cleanup sparks concern at Cole Harbour school

Two parents whose children attend a Cole Harbour elementary school say they’re concerned that they weren’t notified of an asbestos removal operation at the school over the Christmas holidays.

Laurie and Tyler Berdan learned of the asbestos cleanup at Colonel John Stuart Elementary School while walking their dog with their kids on the property over the holidays. Tyler noticed some trucks doing work on the school and spotted a sign on the door indicating that asbestos was being removed.

Laurie said she contacted the school board once classes were back in session and was told parents weren’t informed because there was no health risk.

“Well, I guess we differ in that opinion,” she said Wednesday. “We’re talking about asbestos. Yes, there is a health risk. It’s pretty well-documented.”

Asbestos, a construction material frequently found in older buildings, can cause cancer or scarring of the lungs when inhaled in large quantities. The federal government’s guidelines on asbestos say it does not pose a significant health risk when it is enclosed in a product and is not disturbed.

Laurie said she’s confident that the school and school board have taken all the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the students and staff. But she said parents should have been notified of the operation.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t have the kids at the school if the air quality tests didn’t come back within the realm (of safety),” she said. “I’m absolutely positive that they’ve done everything correct. But I also think that we kind of have the right to know.”

After learning about the asbestos removal, the parents were left with unanswered questions.

“When was it found? How was it found? Was it disturbed? How much of it was there?” Laurie asked. “Parents should have the right to assess any sort of health risk.”

Tyler said there was no effort to inform anybody, “regardless of whether the risk was higher or lower or virtually non-existent.”

Doug Hadley, the spokesman for the Halifax regional school board, said ceiling tiles were removed from most of the school over the holidays in preparation for a lighting retrofit planned for this month.

“It was recognized that the ceiling tiles, because of their age, would have contained asbestos,” he said. “It actually was a proactive measure. There was not any immediate concern.”

Hadley said that due to their age, about 75 per cent of schools in the board’s jurisdiction may have asbestos. But he emphasized that as long as the material isn’t disturbed, there is no risk to health or safety.

Although the board doesn’t have a policy on informing parents of asbestos removal, Hadley said after the Berdans’ complaint, parents at Colonel John Stuart Elementary School will be notified about the recent work.

“Typically, we would not inform parents of that type of removal because it only takes place during times when no students or staff are in the building,” he said. “If it had occurred during a time when the building was going to be occupied, we would have made that notification.”

But since more schools may be facing similar work in the future, the board will consider notifying parents at those schools, too.

“It gives us some thought that maybe, just to be on the proactive side of things, that we let parents know what the scope of the work is before it happens.”

Hadley said tests conducted at Colonel John Stuart Elementary School showed acceptable air quality.

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Asbestos cleanup sparks concern at Cole Harbour school

Federal appeals court upholds Chattanooga asbestos convictions

James Mathis, accompanied by his wife, leaves the Federal Courthouse in this 2012 file photo.

James Mathis, accompanied by his wife, leaves the Federal Courthouse in this 2012 file photo.

Photo by

Jake Daniels

/Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the convictions of two men found guilty of violating federal environmental laws during the demolition of a Chattanooga textile mill that contained large amounts of asbestos.

James Mathis and Donald Fillers were convicted in 2012 of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act in demolishing a textile mill without properly removing asbestos. Prosecutors said the demolition allowed asbestos, which can cause cancer and other fatal diseases, to become airborne.

Fillers was given a four-year prison sentence and fined $20,000, while Mathis was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In challenging their convictions, both men claimed there was insufficient evidence in their case.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that there was plenty of sufficient evidence to convict the men, and affirmed a district court’s ruling.

Particularly in the case of Fillers, the court said “ample evidence exists … that Fillers knowingly acted with others to unlawfully remove asbestos from the site.”

During the three-week trial, witnesses testified that asbestos littered the demolition site. An employee of a nearby day care facility testified that the air in the area was so contaminated that children were unable to play outside, according to court documents.

Fillers’ violations include failure to wet the material containing asbestos during removal and failure to containerize and timely dispose of the material.

Owners and operators of demolition activities must give a notice — including a description of the location and amount of asbestos — to the Environmental Protection Agency 10 days before demolition.

Prosecutors said Mathis acted fraudulently by agreeing with Fillers to file a false 10-day notice, which vastly understated the amount of asbestos at the site.

“The jury … had ample evidence to conclude that Mathis knowingly violated the removal requirement,” the appeals court said.

Mathis’ attorney did not immediately return a call to The Associated Press. However, Fillers’ attorney, Leslie Cory, said she’s disappointed with the ruling and planned to discuss options with her client.

“Mr. Fillers has several options,” said Cory, who declined to elaborate. “I’m going to go over them with him and he’ll make the final decision of what he wants to do next.”

David Wood, another defendant in the case, was found guilty on similar charges and given a 20-month prison sentence.

Fillers’ company, Watkins Street Project LLC, also was found guilty and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine.


Federal appeals court upholds Chattanooga asbestos convictions

Asbestos found at Telstra work site north of Brisbane, union raises concerns

A union says it has grave concerns about work done by a Telstra contractor to the north of Brisbane, after finding asbestos near a recently replaced telecommunications pit.Telstra’s infrastructure is being used to roll out the National Broadband Network (NBN), including old pits containing asbestos.Coutts Contracting, which is under investigation, was responsible for replacing dozens of pits in Caboolture and Morayfield between August 2011 and October 2012.A piece of asbestos was found near a replaced pit in the front yard of a house in Caboolture River Road at Morayfield.Phil Hughes from the Communication Workers Union says nobody knows how long it has been there.”It’s very dangerous because it’s dry and the sun breaks it down,” he said.”If you look really closely, you can actually see the fibres.”He says dangerous pieces of asbestos were left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of land fill.”The contaminated soil would actually be under probably an inch or so of crusher dust; decomposed granite,” he said.”So underneath that would be all your contaminated soil from the old asbestos pit with chunks…

that would eventually work their way to the surface of the ground.”How many school kids walk past here every day; walking right past that lethal piece of asbestos?”Families live in street where asbestos was foundResident Alex Chivers says he is shocked at the discovery.”There’s a family over the road with three kids and there’s a whole group of kids moved into the units over the back there, plus my grandchildren turn up here all the time so I wouldn’t be real happy about them running around knowing there’s asbestos in the air,” he said.A Telstra spokesman says the company is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.”If there is any indication that contractors have failed to use appropriate procedures for the safe handling and disposal of potentially asbestos-containing material then we will take immediate action,” he said.Coutts Contracting denies the claims and has refused to comment.Comcare, the federal department responsible for investigating such claims, released a statement after sending workers to investigate.”In its investigations, Comcare has not uncovered evidence of exposure to workers or the community, or breaches of the WHS Act.”Comcare has received another 66 different complaints from around the country this year but, after investigations, found no breaches at any of those sites.

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Asbestos found at Telstra work site north of Brisbane, union raises concerns

Asbestos risk in buildings

Ageing buildings containing potentially deadly asbestos in remote Kimberley communities are jeopardising the health of residents and threaten to cost taxpayers millions of dollars in remediation.

Aboriginal community leaders and council bosses fear this is the tip of the iceberg with up to 100 houses and structures standing disused or badly neglected throughout the region.

Most were built by contractors from the 1940s to late 1980s.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was last week forced to fence off a large dilapidated shed containing asbestos near a school at Beagle Bay, about 100km north of Broome.

Just days later, the Shire of Derby West Kimberley labelled an old community building containing asbestos a health hazard that should be razed in Bayulu, 10km south of Fitzroy Crossing.

“The building has incurred a significant amount of damage and therefore asbestos has become friable, giving the asbestos fibres potential to become airborne,” Shire of Derby/West Kimberley manager of development services Melanie Houghton advised Fitzroy Valley Futures Housing.

“The issue requires immediate attention and resolution as it poses a significant health risk to the public.”

Bayulu Community Council was so concerned it sent a letter countersigned by all eight members to local area co-ordinator Nick Devereaux pleading for something to be done.

They said the building was not only an occupational health and safety hazard but also a fire risk, located right next door to the community supermarket.

Shire president Elsia Archer said she was horrified when told children were seen playing inside when Ms Houghton carried out her inspection.

“It concerns me that a lot of these buildings in remote Kimberley communities contain asbestos and have reached a stage in their lives where they pose a health risk but nobody wants to take responsibility,” she said.

“The frustrating thing is we as a council don’t have the right to do anything, which is a shame because I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Many of the communities fall under the Aboriginal Lands Trust, which is administered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Djarindjin Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Gus Tampalini said it was believed three houses contained asbestos in his 300-strong community, about 180km north of Broome.

He said two were being demolished on the assumption they contained asbestos and material from the store keeper’s residence had been sent to Adelaide for testing and results were pending.

“I would suggest there would be up to 100 houses and buildings that contain asbestos in remote Aboriginal communities,” he said.

“If you have got 100 houses (containing asbestos), you are well and truly in the millions of dollars to fix the problem.”

Mr Tampalini said the potential remediation costs were forcing an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude from State and Federal governments.

“You get a kid playing in these areas that gets an asbestos-based disease by the time they are 30, it is pretty serious stuff,” he said.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs said the building in Bayulu has now been fenced off, signs are in place and children have been advised of the risk.

“A call for quotes has been distributed to relevant contractors and remediation work will commence as soon as possible,” a DAA spokesman said.

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Asbestos risk in buildings

OSHA cites Ford's Buffalo plant over asbestos

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Federal safety officials have cited Ford Motor Co.’s Buffalo-area plant for alleged asbestos violations.

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed fines of $41,800.

OSHA officials say inspectors found eight violations. One involved a pipefitter who they say was exposed to asbestos while working on a steam line. In other cases, OSHA says workers didn’t wear respiratory protection while exposed to asbestos and that the company did not properly monitor work areas for the potentially cancer-causing substance.

Ford has 15 business days to respond.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker didn’t initially respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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OSHA cites Ford's Buffalo plant over asbestos

Fire aftermath asbestos removal bill blows out

Asbestos contamination has blown out the cost of Tasmania’s bushfire cleanup.

The bushfire recovery taskforce says all 306 properties eligible for a free clean up have now been cleared.

Contractors had hoped to finish the job by the end of April, but took an extra five weeks because of asbestos contamination.

Up to a metre of topsoil had to be removed at some properties, instead of the standard 100 millimetres.

Contractors took 44,000 tonnes, or about 3,000 truckloads of rubble, well above the original estimate of 6,000 tonnes.

In February, the cost of the clean up was estimated at $3 million, but the final total is $6.9 million.

The clean up was jointly funded by State and Federal Governments.

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Fire aftermath asbestos removal bill blows out