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January 17, 2018

Loose asbestos in house

Greater Hume general manager Steve Pinnuck.

Greater Hume general manager Steve Pinnuck.

THE NSW Privacy Act stands in the way of a loose-fill asbestos taskforce naming the town in Greater Hume Shire where a property tested positive for the deadly insulation.

The finding has prompted Greater Hume Council to encourage people with loose-fill asbestos in their roof to register for the NSW government’s free testing program.

Greater Hume general manager Steve Pinnuck said the council had been advised of the location of the house which tested positive, but could not disclose exactly whether that property was in Jindera, Culcairn, Holbrook or any other shire town.

Neighbours of the affected property have not been notified.

“The homeowner has been made aware and there is assistance available to householders in the way of short-term accommodation, as well as replacement of soft furnishings and clothing,” Mr Pinnuck said.

A NSW loose-fill asbestos insulation taskforce spokesman said the NSW Privacy Act prevented the taskforce from revealing the location.

“The taskforce is not able to confirm the location of a property without the written consent of the owner,” he said.

Early last month a house in the Berrigan Shire Council became the first property in the southern Riverina to test positive, bringing the number of affected properties in NSW to 58.

A testing program was introduced in response to problems identified with those houses where a private contractor from Canberra known as Mr Fluffy had pumped friable loose asbestos fibre into their roof between 1968 and 1980.

Most of the properties affected are in the ACT.

Mr Pinnuck said the council was surprised to be one of the 26 local government areas named as a possible location where loose-fill asbestos was installed.

“There’s been at least one property and there could be more,” he said.

The taskforce spokesman said the property in the Greater Hume Shire participated in an independent investigation into loose-fill asbestos in NSW’s free ceiling insulation testing program.

He said a free independent technical assessment by a licensed asbestos assessor would now be offered to the property owners as part of the taskforce’s “Make Safe” assistance package.

The council will work with the taskforce and provide appropriate support and assistance to the affected owner.

Anyone wanting to arrange a free sample test should phone 13 77 88.

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Loose asbestos in house

Mr Fluffy home owners may take newer solar panels after all, ACT government says

Going too: The owners leaving homes contaminated by loose asbestos can take newer solar panels with them after all, the ACT government says.

Going too: The owners leaving homes contaminated by loose asbestos can take newer solar panels with them after all, the ACT government says.

The Asbestos Taskforce has softened its stance on solar panels, saying Mr Fluffy property owners can take newer panels with them.

In December, the taskforce said solar panels must be left behind, because removing them could expose workers to asbestos in the roof cavity. The taskforce was also concerned that panels were difficult to remove without damage and said most were unlikely to comply with new fire standards.

But a spokeswoman said this week if the panels had been installed after July 2013 they would comply with fire regulations and could be removed. The mountings, though, must be left behind.

The taskforce knew of 102 homes with solar panels, she said. It is unclear how many are fire compliant and how many are signed up to the ACT government’s generous feed-in scheme. The scheme, now closed to new customers, gives them a premium feed-in tariff for power generated from their panels for 20 years.

Benn Masters, from solar installer Solarhub, said owners should consider taking their old panels, given the cost of a new system. A new three-kilowatt system of 12 panels would cost about $3000 for the panels alone, with up to $2000 more for the inverter, plus the mount and installation costs, he said. If owners could take their existing panels and the inverter, they would have to pay only for installation and a new mount.

He rejected the suggestion that panels would be easily damaged on removal and said removal was a reasonably simple job. An electrician would have to remove the inverter, which might involve cutting through bolts attaching it to the wall, since the government will not allow any screws, bolts or nails into walls to be removed in case asbestos fibres in wall cavities are disturbed.

New systems would not be eligible for a rebate. “Costs will add up pretty quickly for these guys and if you can reuse what’s there, I definitely think that’s a better option for them,” Mr Masters said.

He urged the government to make a quick decision on allowing owners to keep their feed-in tariff in their new homes.

His company is offering to remove panels free of charge for Mr Fluffy property owners, but owners would have to pay for the reinstallation in a new home.

Solarhub and Solarstart, now merged, had been installing panels since 2009, Mr Masters said. He was concerned about workers’ exposure to Mr Fluffy asbestos during installation, since they access roof cavities, but said every electrician and many other tradespeople in Canberra faced the same issue.

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Mr Fluffy home owners may take newer solar panels after all, ACT government says

Asbestos homes compensation agreed

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Asbestos homes compensation agreed

Katy Gallagher says focus needs to be on a long-term Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation solution

Katy Gallagher says focus needs to be on a long-term Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation solution

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Katy Gallagher

Dmark Giersch wears protective gear while in a cupboard of a house in Campbell to vacuum away dust and asbestos that may have leaked into the house from the roof through cracks at the top of built in robes in this 1988 file photo.

Dmark Giersch wears protective gear while in a cupboard of a house in Campbell to vacuum away dust and asbestos that may have leaked into the house from the roof through cracks at the top of built in robes in this 1988 file photo. Photo: Canberra Times

Any Canberran with a friend or relative dealing with the stress and uncertainty of owning or living in a house with Mr Fluffy loose fill asbestos will know the impact this issue is having. I have met many of these people, read their letters, heard about their financial stresses and their fears of asbestos-related disease. Had the history of this almost 50-year saga played out differently, these families would be spared the trauma they are going through and the community would be spared the large financial cost of making right this sad chapter in the ACT’s history.

Instead we find ourselves now with the need to find a solution. The ACT Cabinet has received an initial report from the Asbestos Response Taskforce which provides the first evidence based, comprehensive expert analysis of the 2014 status of the more than 1000 Mr Fluffy homes. This advice will inform negotiations currently underway with the Commonwealth. We know that the decisions that flow from this advice must deliver a fair outcome for affected families, a sustainable solution for the taxpayers of the ACT and the Commonwealth and one which ends the saga once and for all. I appreciate the frustration of those affected in having to wait for more information, but forcing this process is not an option. The history of the issue binds our two governments together and a permanent solution can only be a shared one.

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Katy Gallagher says focus needs to be on a long-term Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation solution