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January 16, 2018

Inquest hears council worker 'most likely exposed to asbestos'

A former Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) worker who died from mesothelioma was “most likely exposed to asbestos, though the circumstances of her exposure remain unclear”, a coroner has ruled.

Valerie Smith, 61, from Ewell, died on April 8 2014 from the rare type of cancer, which affects the lungs and abdomen.

An inquest into her death, which heard from other former council employees, was held on Tuesday (January 13) at Woking Coroner’s Court.

Ms Smith worked for Epsom and Ewell Borough Council between 1987 and 2010, initially at the Old Town Hall in Epsom.

In 1992, she transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department, based at the Rainbow Leisure Centre in East Street.

It was while working there that Ms Smith believed she was fatally exposed to asbestos.

The Rainbow Leisure Centre, previously the Epsom Baths, was refurbished in 1987/88 and it was believed that all traces of asbestos were removed from the building, and the majority of the pipes were replaced.

John Vadgama, manager of the centre in 1988, told the inquest: “If there was any asbestos, it would have been dealt with during the refurbishment.

“I worked at the Rainbow Leisure Centre from February 1988 and there were no issues arising of any asbestos being found.”

‘Not a designated person’

Ms Smith believed she was exposed to asbestos when walking through a passageway that went underneath the swimming pool, which she said she used two to four times a week to get to her office.

However, Mr Vadgama told the coroner that only authorised personnel could use the passage, which was accessed by four doors.

“I used to visit [the centre] once a week or in the event of something needed to be looked at,” he said.

“The reasons we kept people out of there [the passageway] was there was a valve to the main swimming pool, somebody could have opened that, and there were thermostats of the showers of the swimming pool.

“I think in the nature of anything, no system is absolutely perfect, I would say 90% to 95% of the time it was locked and 5% to 10% it was unlocked.

“There were three duty managers, a plant operator, deputy manager, assistance manager and myself, those people had keys and access to that area.

“It was necessary to access this area for maintenance, there was somebody down there every day, the keys would have been kept on the person, individuals did not have keys.

“I never encountered somebody down there who should not have been down there.

“Valerie Smith was not a designated person to be in the under passage, she worked in one of the offices.”

But the court heard that Ms Smith and some of her colleagues used the passage on a regular basis to access the parks office.

‘Disappointed’

During her time working at the Old Town Hall, asbestos was removed from the toilets on the ground floor and it was listed as having confirmed asbestos in an inspection some time after 1980.

Diane Brighton, Ms Smith’s sister, said: “She was exposed twice to asbestos, at the baths and at the refurbished toilets at the town hall.

“The asbestos was removed but it was 10 metres from the area she was working from, it was just plastic that covered it.”

Coroner Martin Fleming recorded a narrative verdict of death by mesothelioma.

“It’s most likely she was exposed to asbestos, though the circumstances of her exposure remain unclear,” Mr Fleming said.

Ms Brighton issued a statement following the verdict, saying: “At the start of this journey, it was made clear to us that the reason for the inquest was not to apportion blame or to point a finger, but to try to find out the circumstances of how Valerie came to contract this terrible disease [which led to] her ultimate death.

“We knew that it was going to be a difficult and complex case. Valerie was certain that she was exposed while employed at EEBC. 

“Unfortunately, due to time frames of 25-30 years ago, records and exact details have been difficult/impossible to obtain.

“Obviously we were disappointed that the coroner reached a narrative verdict.

“Ideally we would have preferred a definite conclusion, but we partly knew this was not going to be the case.

“We feel that we have done all that is asked, and retained pride and dignity for Valerie.”

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Inquest hears council worker 'most likely exposed to asbestos'

No asbestos in Glasgow fire smoke

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No asbestos in Glasgow fire smoke

Asbestos Holding Up Demolition of Collapsed Building

BUTTE –

A fence surrounds a collapsed building in uptown Butte, which the county ordered demolished, but earlier this week they served a cease and desist order on the owner.

It’s been four months since the building at 750 S. Wyoming Street collapsed on June 28. Owner Joe Lynch said, “The reason for the collapse is a broken water line in the neighbors building and it undermined the foundation in my building causing posts to sink and the roof to fall in from the inside and then the wall fallout.”

An asbestos inspection report reveals the collapsed building contains asbestos, a concern for some in the community. Larry Alheim with the state DEQ said, “It was inspected by a Montana accredited asbestos inspector and they did determine that the building does contain asbestos containing material.”

Bruce Ingraham’s family runs an asbestos removal company in Butte. He said action to remove the asbestos should have already taken place. “I’m concerned about it all the time and all aspects of it. In the real world we’d like to of seen that cleaned up right away. Lots of problems, lot of issues with the building.”

Breathing in asbestos can lead to a slew of health problems including cancer. What is the stall in removing the asbestos, which could potentially be cause for much bigger problems than the eyesore of a collapsed building?

Owner Joe Lynch said he’s been making efforts to clean the mess up to avoid future problems but the DEQ and City-County are holding that up. “I’m waiting for all the asbestos stuff to you know get going and you know I’m threatened with civil and criminal penalties even though the building up the alley owner walked away without having to pay a penny for the demolition.”

Justin Ringsak, spokesman for BSB City-County said, “As far as the asbestos issues, that has further complicated things and that’s caused the state Department of Environmental Quality to get involved.”

Asbestos experts say the collapsed building and pile of bricks should be watered on a regular basis to limit the exposure of asbestos into the air.

Lynch said he and his contractors are getting trained in asbestos removal so he will be certified to remove it.

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Asbestos Holding Up Demolition of Collapsed Building

Principal told to resign over asbestos

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“Chris has been a hard-working and popular principal of Wales Street Primary for the past seven years,” she wrote.

Ms Nagorcka said the school council had been working with the leadership of the school to address health and safety systems since the asbestos incident.

Mr Sexton refused to comment.

More than 500 people signed a petition to Education Department secretary Richard Bolt on change.org calling for the reinstatement of Mr Sexton.

“He is excellent at his job and is much loved by both the children and parents,” says the petition written by Vivian Hardwick.

“The school community has written hundreds of letters to the department requesting that Mr Sexton be reinstated immediately.”

Thirty-nine preps and their teachers were potentially exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres for a week in February.

An independent report provided to the department in April said it had “significant concerns about the works undertaken by the school and their subsequent response”.

It said an asbestos audit should have been completed before the renovation began, the school’s asbestos register and risk-management plan appeared to be substantially out of date and the classroom was reopened before appropriate clearance had been given.

“In our opinion the school should not have allowed this classroom to be used once potential concerns were raised.”

Parent Michael Sullivan said he was disappointed Mr Sexton would not return.

“There was an expectation that Chris would be back next year – we didn’t think it would come to this,” Mr Sullivan said.

“I do not believe he was solely responsible. Fundamentally the school loses twice. We’ve had the disappointment of the incident occurring in the first place and then the loss of a principal who has done an exceptional job in seven years at the school.

“I don’t see that is in the interest of parents and particularly children.”

Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace said it would have been a difficult decision for Mr Sexton to resign.

“We have supported him throughout what’s been a pretty long and difficult process and we will continue to support him,” Ms Peace said.

“We remain very concerned that a significant responsibility such as asbestos is left up to school principals to manage. Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous substance and requires significant expertise which our principals don’t have. While they continue to be expected to do this we will continue to get incidents like this occurring.”

Ms Peace questioned what had been done to put in place a long-term plan for the removal of asbestos from school buildings.

Ms Nagorcka said the principal role would be advertised with a view to the person beginning in term one next year.

For more education stories go to www.facebook.com/theageeducation











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Principal told to resign over asbestos

Asbestos risk is low from Rozelle disaster, residents told

Asbestos risk is low from Rozelle disaster, residents told

NSW

Date

Damien Murphy

Speaking out: A resident addresses a community meeting held on Sunday about the clean-up efforts after the fatal explosion in Darling Street, Rozelle.

Speaking out: A resident addresses a community meeting held on Sunday about the clean-up efforts after the fatal explosion in Darling Street, Rozelle. Photo: James Alcock

The cordoned-off area along Darling Street, Rozelle, is growing smaller as police continue to investigate the explosion and fire that killed three people.

More than 200 people affected by the explosion that tore through the Rozelle convenience store attended a community meeting on Sunday amid growing fears of asbestos contamination.

Police moved to assure residents that the risk was low.

No-go zone: the scene on Sunday as residents and business owners of Balmain and Rozelle await clearance to return to the closed site of last week's explosion in Darling Street.

No-go zone: the scene on Sunday as residents and business owners of Balmain and Rozelle await clearance to return to the closed site of last week’s explosion in Darling Street. Photo: James Alcock

Inspector Gary Coffey told the meeting that no airborne particles had been found by scientists who have been checking the site since the fire on Thursday morning.

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Asbestos risk is low from Rozelle disaster, residents told

School assistant appeals to former colleagues in asbestos investigation

School assistant appeals to former colleagues in asbestos investigation

The Northern Echo: INFORMATION APPEAL: Catherine Robson

INFORMATION APPEAL: Catherine Robson

A FORMER school assistant diagnosed with a terminal asbestos-related cancer is appealing to former colleagues to help an investigation into her exposure.

Catherine Robson, 59, from Sacriston, County Durham, was diagnosed last Christmas with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure.

She has now instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate.

Mrs Robson worked at Bullion Lane Primary School, Chester-le-Street, from September 1990 to July 1991 and again from November 1994 to March 2008.

Mrs Robson, then known as Catherine Foster, recalls parts of the school were later found to have asbestos in it.

She also believes she may have been exposed to asbestos while helping with her father’s dusty work overalls.

Her dad, Arthur Carter, worked for Elliott Bros Limited at ICI Billingham between October 1965 and February 1966 and for Steel and Co Limited from March 1966 to May 1975. Sadly, he died from lung cancer in 2001.

She said: “I used to do everything I could to help my mum and used to help wash my dad’s boiler suits from work which were always covered in dust which I now believe may have been asbestos dust.

“The course of my illness has been horrendous. Before, I was such an active person and enjoyed walking and going to the gym but I’m now in pain and undergoing chemotherapy.

“It’s really hard for my husband, Harry, and I as we have only been married for five-and-a-half years and I thought we would have a long future together.”

Anyone with information should call Isobel Lovett or Emma Tordoff at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0104.

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School assistant appeals to former colleagues in asbestos investigation

Asbestos fine tied to councillor

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Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Mansour Razaghi said he became alarmed after seeing workers without complete asbestos protective gear working in close proximity to passing school children.

”The kids were just one or two metres away from the excavation machine and from where a worker was hand-picking the asbestos fragments from the soil,” he said.

The site also lacked appropriate fencing, public warning signs about asbestos and decontamination for trucks and workers leaving the site, Mr Razaghi said.

However, Cr Mehajer accused ”a third party” of planting some of the potentially deadly material in a bid to discredit him.

Cr Mehajer said long-buried asbestos had been found but later questioned the quantity, professing to be ”familiar with every soil grain” at the John Street address.

”For me to come across contaminated soil with asbestos really does raise concerns to who trespasses my site after hours and dumps such hazardous material to target me,” Cr Mehajer said in an email.

Asked who he thought was behind such a plot, Cr Mehajer responded: ”Maybe you?”

But another Auburn councillor, Tony Oldfield, dismissed Cr Mehajer’s suspicions as ”a really stupid comment”.

”The reason we found out about asbestos was by accident,” said Cr Oldfield. ”The complaints from local residents were actually about the dust coming from the site.”

Mr Razaghi claims asbestos sheeting was also being removed from an adjoining Ann Street property owned by Cr Mehajer and damaged by fire.

Work has resumed at the site this week.

A Department of Education and Communities spokesman said Lidcombe Public School had been unaware of the asbestos exposure when contacted by Fairfax Media this week.

But Cr Mehajer denied that there had been any safety breaches by his company, Sydney Project Group, or its subcontractor, pointing to an air-monitoring report that found calculated concentrations of asbestos fibres to be less than the reporting limit of 0.01 fibres/mL.

”I do go that extra mile and undertake further [safety] procedures [that] not even a site the size of Barangaroo will undertake,” he said.

WorkCover said it was satisfied with the asbestos management after visiting the Lidcombe site this week. Auburn Council said it would continue to monitor compliance.











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Asbestos fine tied to councillor

Children exposed to asbestos

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Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Mansour Razaghi said he became alarmed after seeing workers without complete asbestos protective gear working in close proximity to passing school children.

”The kids were just one or two metres away from the excavation machine and from where a worker was hand-picking the asbestos fragments from the soil,” he said.

The site also lacked appropriate fencing, public warning signs about asbestos and decontamination for trucks and workers leaving the site, Mr Razaghi said.

However, Cr Mehajer accused ”a third party” of planting some of the potentially deadly material in a bid to discredit him.

Cr Mehajer said long-buried asbestos had been found but later questioned the quantity, professing to be ”familiar with every soil grain” at the John Street address.

”For me to come across contaminated soil with asbestos really does raise concerns to who trespasses my site after hours and dumps such hazardous material to target me,” Cr Mehajer said in an email.

Asked who he thought was behind such a plot, Cr Mehajer responded: ”Maybe you?”

But another Auburn councillor, Tony Oldfield, dismissed Cr Mehajer’s suspicions as ”a really stupid comment”.

”The reason we found out about asbestos was by accident,” said Cr Oldfield. ”The complaints from local residents were actually about the dust coming from the site.”

Mr Razaghi claims asbestos sheeting was also being removed from an adjoining Ann Street property owned by Cr Mehajer and damaged by fire.

Work has resumed at the site this week.

A Department of Education and Communities spokesman said Lidcombe Public School had been unaware of the asbestos exposure when contacted by Fairfax Media this week.

But Cr Mehajer denied that there had been any safety breaches by his company, Sydney Project Group, or its subcontractor, pointing to an air-monitoring report that found calculated concentrations of asbestos fibres to be less than the reporting limit of 0.01 fibres/mL.

”I do go that extra mile and undertake further [safety] procedures [that] not even a site the size of Barangaroo will undertake,” he said.

WorkCover said it was satisfied with the asbestos management after visiting the Lidcombe site this week. Auburn Council said it would continue to monitor compliance.











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Children exposed to asbestos

Asbestos, lead contamination closes Branchburg library indefinitely

BRANCHBURG — The townships library will be closed indefinitely after officials last month discovered asbestos and lead in the building housing the Branchburg Reading Station.

The library, a branch of the Somerset County Library System, has been closed since last month.

Library and township health officials did not return calls or emails seeking comment Friday and other details were not available.

The Station House building on Olive Street in Neshanic Station also was the site of township recreation programs.

Safety for all of our patrons is an utmost priority, SCLS Director Brian Auger said in a prepared statement. Discovering toxic materials at the Branchburg Reading Station will necessitate remediation. In the meantime, we want to make sure that all Branchburg residents are welcome at all of the SCLS libraries.

Auger said that library card holder might borrow materials from the systems 11 other locations.

A list of locations and addresses is available at the county library systems website at http://somerset.lib.nj.us.

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Asbestos, lead contamination closes Branchburg library indefinitely

'I just put on gloves and got on with it'

The asbestos was left on the verge for two months before the woman moved it back into her backyard.

The asbestos was left on the verge for two months before the woman moved it back into her backyard. Photo: Echo Newspapers

The Swan shire has come under fire for leaving a pile of asbestos on a verge in Middle Swan for around two months, without covering it or putting on any signage to warn people of the health hazard.

The debris was created when a resident on the corner of Bishop Road and Brown Street pulled down the fence and dumped it in the yard of the house next door – before she erected a new fence.

When unwitting tenants moved into the house on Brown Street they assumed the asbestos was fibro and took the pile to the tip.

But the tip refused to accept the asbestos because the hazardous material was not properly wrapped.

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Following his unsuccessful trip to the tip, the worried tenant put the asbestos on the verge to keep it away from his partner and her two children, and the pile has sat on the verge uncovered since before Christmas.

Brown Street resident Rita Reinholdtsen said at least six phone calls had been made to alert the shire about the asbestos on the verge by concerned neighbours, but it was not removed.

“Instead the owner of the fence kept getting extensions on the timeframe she was given to move the asbestos pile she had created.”

“At the very least the shire should have covered it or put tape around it or signs to alert people of the health risks.

“There’s a young lass next door who is pregnant, she walks to school with her four-year-old and her mother-in-law and they walk right past it every day.”

The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia president Robert Vojakovic agreed the shire had been irresponsible.

“It has been reported to the city, they know it’s on the verge, they can remove the asbestos and recoup the cost,” he said.

“The fact it has been allowed to sit on the verge since before Christmas is extraordinary.

“There is also the issue of risk management – you can’t expect ordinary people to clean this up.”

Shortly after Echo News put an enquiry in to the city the resident who originally pulled the fence down was told by a council representative she had to remove the pile as a priority.

So she, and her two teenage daughters, picked the asbestos sheets up off the verge and threw them back over the fence into thier backyard.

Mrs Reinholdtsen said she was horrified to watch them handle the asbestos without any masks on.

“They just had gloves and shorts on – no protective clothing and obviously they don’t understand that fibres get stuck in your clothing and lungs.”

The woman who removed the asbestos said she recieved no help from the shire.

“I would have been fine paying back the shire if they removed the asbestos and then billed me but when I asked them who could I contact to remove the pile for us, if they knew a contractor, I was told to use Google.”

She said she felt pressured after a phone call from the shire on Tuesday, so she put on some gloves and just got on with it.

But Slater & Gordon asbestos lawyer Laine McDonald said residents who cleaned up disturbed asbestos risked being exposed, especially without adequate respiratory protection.

“Around 250 Western Australians die every year from asbestos-related diseases and as long as asbestos products remain in our community we continue to be at risk.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said the City of Swan’s environmental health officer was the first point of contact for residential asbestos issues.

The spokesperson said if a resident had problems contacting the shire they could call the Health Department’s Environmental Health Directorate on 9388 4999.

“[The directorate] will follow-up with the relevant local government to ensure that any potential risk to public health has been appropriately managed.”

The spokesperson said it was not the City of Swan’s responsibility to remove the asbestos.

“But it can do if there is a default in complying with a notice, and costs can be recouped at a later stage.

“Under the Health (Asbestos) Regulations there is no set timeframe when asbestos needs to be removed.

“However, a notice or verbal advice would normally specify that this would be expected as soon as possible and practical.”

Mr McDonald said anyone who was worried about exposure to asbestos should add their details to Slater & Gordon’s online register.

“These important particulars are recorded in perpetuity, so that people don’t have to remember vital details if they’re dealing with an asbestos-related disease in decades to come.”

The City of Swan was contacted for comment.

– Echo Newspapers

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'I just put on gloves and got on with it'