January 18, 2019

Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

A SISTERS Beach mother-of-two got the shock of her life after her daughter partially fell into a Telstra services pit last week.

Melanie Strempel’s daughter suffered minor cuts and abrasions, however it was what she found at the bottom of the pit that was the cause for concern.

After running out to see if her daughter was alright, Miss Strempel noticed broken pieces of cement sheeting at the bottom of the pit.

Miss Strempel and her partner believe it’s asbestos.

“We were observing my daughter out the window of our house playing over the road,” Miss Strempel said.

“The pit is on a hump on the grass and a lot of children play in that area, riding their bikes.

“My partner noticed my daughter go over the hump on her bike when the lid flipped up and she fell into it.

“When we went over to see if she was alright in the bottom of the pit we noticed all the broken bits of asbestos, the pit had deteriorated on the inside.”

Miss Strempel lost her grandfather to an asbestos-related disease and the incident during the week brought back memories.

She was straight on the phone to Telstra to report the incident.

“When I spoke to Telstra they said someone would come out to fix the problem.

“Three days later a technician turned up only to put a plastic sheet over it and a yellow cage.”

Telstra were contacted for comment.

The company does have an asbestos procedure listed on its website.

This comes after crews fitting out pits for the National Broadband Network found asbestos.

More information can be found on the website at www.telstra.com.au/aboutus/media/emergencies-incidents/asbestos/.

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Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

It’s a tough job…but asbestos removal is booming for Daniel

It’s a tough job…but asbestos removal is booming for Daniel

Echo: “Enough work for a lifetime” – Daniel Frost in the mock asbestos enclosure

“Enough work for a lifetime” – Daniel Frost in the mock asbestos enclosure

The presence of asbestos in a building may be bad news for those who live or work there, but this killer material does have one positive aspect.

Asbestos removal is a good source of employment in south Essex, providing one of the most secure and recession-proof of jobs.

So much asbestos remains on sites around the UK that, by one estimate, it will take at least 300 years to remove it all, at the current rate.

“So there will be enough work around to see out my lifetime,” says Daniel Frost.

He is director of the Canvey based eBrit Services, one of the largest and fastest growing asbestos removal specialists in the south of England.

Founded in 2011 by Daniel and a partner (a labour supply specialist) in West London, eBrit started with one van and two site men from Canvey.

Three years later, it has grown to employ 70 on-site staff and 17 staff in the Canvey base.

The fleet now numbers 29 vehicles. Turnover has increased from £1.5million in the first year to £13million today.

Daniel worked his way to the position of company director from the ground upwards. After leaving the Army, he spent years as a hands-on asbestos remover, before setting up in business for himself.

“Asbestos removal had never occurred to me as a way of making a living,” he said.

“I was laying some blocks outside an office in Basildon, and the company bosses spotted me out of the window, and how hard I was working – although, after the Army, it didn’t seem particularly like hard work. They called me up and asked if I would like a job.”

The basics of asbestos removal involve dampening the substance down, and creating a negative pressure, so the lethal asbestos dust and fibres are not released into the air.

Only then is it is safe to handle and remove. They are trucked to one of a number of specialist asbestos sites around southern Britain.

The removal operation is conducted within an airtight plastic enclosure, equipped with a pump and extractor. The makeshift tent is first tested with smoke to ensure that it is air-tight.

“You find that the preparation can often take four hours, and the actual removal just a couple of hours,” says Daniel.

To work on site, an asbestos remover needs to be physically fit, with good lung capacity.

“Obviously, a responsible attitude is particularly important,” says Daniel. Asbestos-busters also need to have a face that fits.

“If someone has, say, a broken jaw, it could mean that the respirator won’t fit him properly.”

Initial training takes three days, before a novice operator starts on his first job.

“They start on less challenging tasks, like asbestos cement, which is present in a lot of buildings right here on the Charfleets estate,” says Daniel, pointing out of the window. Once assessed as capable, they are released to more dangerous sites.

“We have specialist operators in areas, such as working at height, rope access and first aid.”

Asbestos operatives make good money. At the basic level, they can earn £120 to £140 a day, while supervisors earn anything up to £1,000 a week. The pay scales, and the job security he offers, mean Daniel has no shortage of people who approach him for a job.

“Often the best guys are people like bricklayers who are used to conditions on a site, and used to hard work,” says Daniel.

One source remains elusive, however. There are no women in eBrit’s on-site team. “It’s not that we have anything against employing them, and we’ve had a few applications,” says Daniel. “But when they learn what’s involved, they don’t seem to follow it up.”


It’s a tough job…but asbestos removal is booming for Daniel

Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library

Like most Billings residents, Bill Cochran thought he’d be seeing the old Parmly Billings Library coming down by now, making way for a 100-space parking lot, new entrance for the library and considerable landscaping just outside the library’s Community Room.

“Things haven’t happened as quickly as we’ve been telling people they would happen,” Cochran, the Billings library director, said Tuesday.

The discovery of what’s called non-friable asbestos in the fifth floor of the old library is contributing to the project delay of up to a month, Cochran said. 

Non-friable asbestos isn’t harmful because its fibers are bound and thus not a breathing hazard.

“There were small amounts in unexpected places — tars and window gaskets — things that ordinarily would have been demolished and taken to the landfill,” Cochran said. “Considerably more caution is being exercised.”

Northern Industrial Hygiene of Billings tested the window gasket and found it contained a small amount of non-friable asbestos.

“It won’t come loose, and it’s not dangerous,” he said, “but it does have to be removed.”

Other factors have contributed to the delay, Cochran said. A sub-contractor expecting its asbestos abatement duties to have been completed by now allowed a state license to expire; renewing the license involves a mandatory 10-day review period, Cochran said.

Without work to do at the site, contractors and sub-contractors are turning their attention to other projects, he said.

The demolition, being done by LM Excavating of Columbia Falls, will restart next week, Cochran said. The demolition work uses green principles in accordance with the new library’s LEED Gold building certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

As the building comes down, clean materials like brick and concrete are separated from rebar — and, of course, from asbestos, wherever it’s found. The clean fill will be used in a boulder pit that will allow water taken from the new library’s roof to irrigate the landscaping.

The clean fill sits in neatly-stacked piles just west of the old library.

LM Excavating is expected on Monday to erect additional protective measures to ensure that as the old library comes down it does no damage to the new building. After that, the demolition can resume in earnest, with completion expected in late July. 

Cochran said a celebration upon culmination of the work is still being planned.

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Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library