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Asbestos concerns

08 May 2019

Asbestos concerns Image

A South Melbourne building site in the Domain Precinct has been called to question over asbestos contamination.

The site at 41-49 Bank St, South Melbourne, which was formerly home to radio broadcaster 3AW, is earmarked for a 19-storey residential apartment complex by developer Virgate Property Group.

According to a hazardous material assessment conducted by environmental consultants Prensa in April 2018, the former building contained high levels of friable asbestos prior to the start of its demolition in May. Prensa advised that removal works be undertaken by a class A (friable) licensed asbestos removal contractor.

According to WorkSafe, friable asbestos when dry can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure, and ultimately poses a health risk due to the greater potential release of airborne particles.

Local residents from neighbouring Capri Apartments originally expressed concerns to authorities after it was alleged that demolition works began before a demolition notice was issued by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in June.

The Victorian Branch of the CFMEU also alleged in July that the company responsible for the demolition, which is not a class A asbestos contractor, had removed asbestos material from the site illegally.

The building has since been fully demolished and a temporary showroom for the new development has been constructed on the site. WorkSafe took no legal action against the developer or demolition company over the asbestos removal.

WorkSafe told Southbank Local News that it had visited the site numerous times since demolition and had no current concerns. City of Port Phillip Mayor Dick Gross also said that the council was very satisfied with WorkSafe’s assessment.

Cr Gross said: “Our position is based on a rigorous safety and assessment process including:

A licensed asbestos assessor, accompanied by WorkSafe officials, inspecting the entire site in November last year before providing a clearance certificate to WorkSafe in accordance with legislative requirements;

WorkSafe advising council’s municipal building surveyor (MBS) that this site does not pose a risk to the public; and

Our MBS receiving a clearance certificate and air monitoring information from an independent asbestos hygiene service, which monitored the friable asbestos removal during demolition.”

During its November inspection, the council said WorkSafe had taken samples for analysis and that only one sample was identified as containing asbestos. The sample was found in cement sheet pipes located within a concrete slab that has since been encapsulated and covered in a timber barricade, which meant the asbestos was safe from disturbance.

But Capri resident Tanya Canfield, who has lobbied authorities on the issue since it first emerged, engaged asbestos testing company iRisC to analyse three separate samples she claims to have taken from the site between October and November.

The iRisC report found that the samples each contained levels of asbestos and while it stated that it took no responsibility for the sampling methodology or sample location, Ms Canfield believed residents deserved a more thorough remediation of the site.

“No one expects government departments to turn a blind eye to a poor demolition, which is exactly what happened and they are failing to want to resolve this. Enforce immediate remediation and make the companies responsible take full accountability,” she said.

“It’s not safe, it’s not ok and it should never have happened. Several companies have been exposed unwittingly whilst companies failed to tell the truth. Our community’s health and safety aren’t up for negotiation. Asbestos exposure is harmful and we won’t accept living next to a contaminated site. It must immediately be remedied.”

Ms Canfield has started an online petition, which can be found here: chng.it/Mp4fnVJGFV

Virgate Property did not respond to Southbank Local News for comment.

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