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Asbestos-ridden home to be encased in bubble

Something quite remarkable is about to take place on an otherwise unremarkable suburban street.

Starting in the next week, an enormous plastic bubble will encase a small brick bungalow home on Bradfield Street in Downer, as the ACT government spends $2 million removing asbestos insulation from the home and 30 centimetres of topsoil from the site.

Passersby paid no particular attention to the dilapidated white house surrounded by temporary fencing on Monday, but neighbours who had learned about planned removal works in an ACT government letter said they were concerned for their safety and the work's impact on local property prices.

A look through the fence showed air vents sealed with duct tape and plastic, a debris-filled garden and a pile of warning signs strewn outside the garage. One resident said three months of noise and traffic disruption was a small enough price to pay for improved safety and the destruction of ''an eyesore''.

The two-page letter outlining the unusual removal process did not arrive at all nearby homes, however. Tenant Emily Scott and her partner said they were worried the property directly opposite theirs could pose a dangerous health risk.

''It is pretty serious, obviously, so it would have been nice to get some actual information about it,'' the 22-year-old said.


''I think people will be annoyed because people always are with this kind of thing, but it will be nice to have the asbestos gone, even if it is a bit of discomfort for residents.''

Ms Scott, who gets up early on most days to run her small business, said the noise from the work and generators would not worry her.

''We all know the implications of having homes with asbestos, especially for people with kids. If I had children I would be even more concerned than I am,'' she said.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe conceded the clean-up and removal of the home was going to be a massive project that would

cause some disruption for local residents. It would take three months to complete, with teams of workers on site between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday, and between 9am and noon on Saturday.

A massive plastic shield worthy of a Stephen King novel would be erected over the site because loose, or amosite asbestos, is considered the most harmful as it is easily crumbled or reduced to powder.

The microscopic fibres require very little disturbance to become airborne.

A special vacuum system would be used, as well as a negative pressure air system to prevent loose fibres escaping from the bubble.

Mr McCabe said fans to manage the air pressure would run 24 hours a day throughout the three-month period.

The loose asbestos would be bagged, marked and disposed of at least three metres below soil level in government regulated asbestos dumps.

Regular air monitoring would take place throughout the dismantling process, with emergency procedures in place in the unlikely event of a leak, spill or medical emergency.

Workers will be trained before starting the job and will be required to wear full coveralls and breathing equipment while inside the bubble.


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