The ACT government does not know when Kingston's Old Bus Depot Markets will reopen as some workers were found to have blood lead levels higher than normal.
Remediation works to clear lead dust in the former transport depot have proved harder than first thought.
Freedom of information documents have revealed that three construction workers who worked on renovations at the depot had a blood lead level higher than "background everyday exposure".
However, this did not indicate exposure to high levels of lead and the blood test results did not require the people to stop work. The results were also not high enough to require notification to WorkSafe ACT.
Remediation was expected to be completed this month, but an ACT government spokeswoman said the complexity of the works had pushed this back. She said it was now hoped remediation would be finished in July.
One of Canberra's premier tourist attractions, the Old Bus Depot Markets has been unable to operate since March 2020, initially due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and then due to renovations.
The $6.5 million renovations, which included a roof replacement, were due to be completed in March 2021 but these plans were thwarted after lead dust was discovered in the building late last year.
Freedom of information documents showed that high concentrations of dust was recorded across many areas of the former transport depot, including the food court areas.
Lead dust was uncovered in the building during construction works in the Megalo Gallery in December.
Further testing was then conducted throughout the former depot in late-January that found lead particles were present across many areas, including the food court areas, workshop areas and the foreshore space.
"While the concentration of atmospheric lead was below the detection limit there is a presence of lead particles on a number of surfaces," documents said.
A total of 28 workers who worked on the renovations have had their blood levels tested for lead.
The freedom of information documents also reaffirmed the lead risk was low for stallholders and visitors to the market - the dust was only disturbed during the renovation.
"As the dust was undisturbed prior to the construction activities, it would have posed a very low risk to anyone working or visiting the facility before construction began," a document said.
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Lead levels in the building were elevated when it was a transport depot. It ceased to be a depot in 1992.
A consultant's report said: "Since transport-related activities stopped in the building in 1992 it is probably that the levels of dust in areas in frequent use will have reduced significantly through cleaning and movement of people".
"If you worked in the building before 1992 when it was a transport depot, you may have been exposed to lead during this time ... having a blood test now will not determine historical exposure".
The ACT government has not attempted to contact people who worked in the building before 1992.
"If members of the community are concerned about lead exposure, it is important that they speak to their doctor," the spokeswoman said.
The ACT government previously told The Canberra Times remediation works would cost $650,000, but when asked if this was still the case, the spokeswoman refused to confirm.
"The final cost is not confirmed due to the extent of work not being known until testing is complete," the spokeswoman said.
ACT Opposition spokesman for workplace affairs Peter Cain said he was concerned about the lack of clarity around the remediation works.
"The presence of hazardous and toxic materials at any site where people work or visit is obviously concerning," he said.
"We know that this government has a track record of poor management of these substances in our community, especially in our government schools.
"It's incumbent upon the ACT government to assure the community that no members of the public are at risk and that appropriate steps are being taken to safeguard the health of current and former workers at the site."
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