Fluffy homeowners outraged after Ainslie owner told his building can be cleaned
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Fluffy homeowners outraged after Ainslie owner told his building can be cleaned

With Fluffy homeowners up in arms about the decision to clean the asbestos-contaminated Ainslie shops building, the government is refusing to put a timeline on how long the building might be allowed to stand.

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones maintained that demolition was the only "forever" solution to loose-fill asbestos contamination.

Jeff Darwin in 2015 outside his Ainslie shops building. The rood space in the flat above Edgar's Inn contains loose-fill Fluffy asbestos insulation.

Jeff Darwin in 2015 outside his Ainslie shops building. The rood space in the flat above Edgar's Inn contains loose-fill Fluffy asbestos insulation.

Photo: Melissa Adams

But he stopped short of saying the Ainslie shops building would be demolished, even in the long-term.

"There's no definitive answer on that," he said, speaking on ABC Radio. "It will entirely depend on what the asbestos assessor comes up with, the degree of management options and plans that they come up with and how effective those management plans are going forward. So it could be significantly beyond 2020."

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones: Ainslie shops asbestos building: Once cleaned, the building might be allowed to stand "for quite a number of years".

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones: Ainslie shops asbestos building: Once cleaned, the building might be allowed to stand "for quite a number of years".

Photo: David Ellery
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The building on the corner of Wakefield Gardens at the Ainslie shops housing Edgar's Inn is contaminated with asbestos in the first-floor roof space. Unlike the 1023 Fluffy-contaminated homes, which were cleaned 25 years ago but are nevertheless now being demolished because of residual fibres, the Ainslie building still has the asbestos in situ. It wasn't discovered until 1995 and was not part of the earlier clean up.

In 2014 Worksafe placed a prohibition order on the flat above Edgar's which had been rented to tenants for many years, and since then there has been an impasse. But this week, owner Jeff Darwin finally met with Worksafe, and emerged saying he had been told the building would be assessed, cleaned, and cleared for him to use again.

Mr Darwin said he had asked Worksafe whether he would find himself in the same situation as the homeowners in 20 years' time, with residual fibres making the building unsafe, but had been told that "they will guarantee it's all gone".

The news outraged Fluffy owners who were told their homes must be demolished and were subject to a mass buyback of their houses, forcing many from homes and suburbs they have lived in for years. Owners say if Mr Darwin is allowed to clean and keep his building, they should also be given the option.

But Mr Jones has since delivered a slightly different message about the building. He confirmed Worksafe was aiming for "medium-term remediation works to help him get his commercial promises back operational again as a medium-term managed situation".

He did not clarify what he meant by medium term.

An asbestos assessor was investigating the extent of contamination - including checking how far the asbestos had migrated through walls - and would report within a couple of weeks.

"That will provide us some really good guidance about what ... Mr Darwin can do to use his premises either from a management perspective in the medium term and what his prospects are in the long term," Mr Jones said. "So until we get that licensed asbestos assessor's report on what he finds in and around those premises we haven't got any long term solution for him just yet."

Asked about the clean-up, he said some asbestos might be removed "under very strict and careful conditions", and there were technologies "where you can seal other areas of the building and obviously have fairly frequent testing to make sure that what has been either sealed or removed has got the majority".

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While the only "forever solution" was demolition, "the short to medium-term with those management options could be for quite some time", Mr Jones said.

"That's based on the licensed asbestos assessor's advice firstly on how much is there, secondly where if anything outside that roof space it's penetrated, and how confident they are of the immediate clean up or extraction of that and then the ongoing monitoring. So potentially it could go on for quite a number of years if ... advice says that the place is sealed, safe, there's no detection of any fibres anywhere."