After authorities identified another Queanbeyan property containing loose-fill asbestos insulation, the Queanbeyan City Council has called on more residents to put their hands up for the free testing.
The council was told on Wednesday of the latest free-standing home to test positive to Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation under the NSW testing regime.
The discovery brings the number of Queanbeyan homes affected to 53. The include 15 free-standing houses and a two-storey property containing 38 units.
The positive test is the first under the testing program which began in August last year, the rest of the homes having already been identified some years ago.
To date, 928 Queanbeyan homeowners have put their hands up for testing, with 494 cleared and one positive. But council manager of sustainability and better living Mike Thompson said the town had between 4500 and 5000 homes built before 1980, so fewer than quarter had requested testing.
He urged others in Queanbeyan to come forward to ensure the picture of asbestos contamination in the town was as accurate as possible and to ensure they were included in a package expected to be announced by the NSW Government in May. Free testing is open until August.
"We're trying to encourage as many people as possible to make use of the free sampling service," he said. "It's important that we know about as many of these places as possible when a decision about a long-term solution is made."
NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet has set up a taskforce, to report by the end of May on the most cost-effective option to buy back and demolish the houses, and has acknowledged that demolition is the only enduring solution.
In Canberra, the 1021 Mr Fluffy homes are being bought by the government and demolished, judged too dangerous to live in. The Queanbeyan homes are in a worse situation because the insulation remains in ceilings. In Canberra, the bulk of the loose, easily inhaled asbestos fibres were cleared from ceilings in a clean-up more than 20 years ago.
The Queanbeyan find comes after the discovery last week of a second Yass-area home, a rural property near Canberra.
Mr Thompson said the council would make contact with the residents and ensure they were aware of the temporary package from the NSW government – of air and other asbestos sampling and advice on how to seal living areas and control pathways by which asbestos could enter living areas from the ceiling, wall cavities and subfloors.
Residents are also eligible for cleaning and sealing, replacement of soft furnishings up to $1000, counselling, and help with accommodation if living areas are found to be contaminated, of up to $10,000 a family, plus $2000 a child.