Asbestos work alarms neighbours

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In the dark: Red Hill resident Monique Soames and her neighbours are upset at not knowing about the asbestos-removal works. Picture: Yanni

FEATHERS were flying in Red Hill last week when neighbours discovered asbestos sheeting was being removed from a disused chicken shed near their properties.

Monique Soames said she and her neighbours were outraged at not being warned by Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, WorkSafe, or the EPA about the potentially hazardous works on Arthurs Seat Road and had “only come across it by pure chance”.

The contractor carrying out the work says it is legal and being done in accordance with his licences and permits.

WorkSafe confirmed it had been notified by the contractor but said work had been halted after complaints by nearby property owners. An inspection of the site would be made this week.

Ms Soames said she had made repeated calls to the agencies to try to put a stop to the works on the 100-metre-long shed when she saw asbestos sheets lying alongside the former battery-hen shed and bagged ready to be removed.

Her neighbours had made similar calls and were dismayed no one was prepared to “take ownership”.

“It is only common sense that we should all have been told,” Ms Soames said.

“The EPA and WorkSafe are investigating the demolition as it backs onto many properties and no one was aware it was happening at all.

“The Red Hill market is on this weekend and people are using the tennis courts which are only metres from [the] asbestos.

“l am sure you will understand the community’s concerns due to a lack of information, pre-warning and surprise.”

Licensed asbestos removalist David Hender said he was “lawfully engaged to perform asbestos removal/demolition works at the property and [had been] engaged by the property owner”.

He said he became aware of “public concern in relation to works that are being performed on private property in relation to the removal of dilapidated chicken sheds” and provided copies of relevant licenses and EPA permits to carry out the works.

“We are a licensed demolisher and licensed B class asbestos removalist,” he said. “The works on this property fall under the B class removalist category.

“Demolishing chicken sheds is not illegal [and] nor is asbestos removal.”

Neighbours are not required to be notified unless their homes are within 10 metres of the demolition works.

Mr Hender said all correspondence relating to the work was being forwarded to his solicitor.

The News is not suggesting Mr Hender is doing anything wrong and is acting in accordance with his licences and permits.

WorkSafe’s Jeremy Venosta said the authority was investigating the job, which had been put on hold last week. The EPA’s Troy Kraska said that, as the report concerned removal of asbestos at a worksite, his department had referred it to WorkSafe and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council for investigation.

A shire officer was onsite last week speaking with Ms Soames. He confirmed the works were being carried out by licensed asbestos removalists. “This is therefore a WorkSafe matter and council has no legislative power to intervene in the matter,” he said.

“The contractor has done his required notification to WorkSafe and we have also passed Ms Soames detailed accounts of the onsite practices to WorkSafe, urging them to investigate. This is as much as we can do in this circumstance.”

It is understood a building permit was not required for the removal of the asbestos – only for demolition of the shed structure.

Mr Venosta said WorkSafe was planning to revisit the site this week.

Red Hill Ward councillor David Gill said he could “understand why the neighbours were fearful”.

“They didn’t know [the contractor] had permits and licences and we all know how dangerous asbestos is,” he said. “It was a windy day and it is asbestos.”

Cr Gill said the council needed to play a role in informing neighbours in similar instances. “A lack of notification breeds suspicion and fear,”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 6 November 2018

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