Council to give asbestos DIY advice

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014

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Do-it-yourself homeowners will be targeted by a new campaign aimed at encouraging the safe removal of building materials containing asbestos.

Christchurch City Council inspections and enforcement unit manager Anne Columbus said that in the past authorities had been reluctant to provide information to homeowners on how to safely remove asbestos because they did not want to encourage them to remove it themselves, but this was happening anyway because it was expensive to get professionals to remove it.

The joint agency Waste and Environmental Management Team (Wemt) set up to manage the mountain of waste generated by the quakes had now decided to change tack and were in the process of pulling together information for homeowners on how they could manage their own asbestos removal.

"The message now is if you are going to do it, do it the right way and do the right thing," Columbus told the council's environment committee.

She said a new dedicated website would go live where DIY people would be able to get detailed advice on how to remove asbestos safely and how to dispose of it. It was part of a new community education campaign supported by Worksafe New Zealand and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Cr David East said the problem was not just disposing of asbestos in building materials, but also disposing of soil contaminated with asbestos.

On the former Queen Elizabeth II site, for example, there were three or four large piles of asbestos-contaminated soil. Although it technically posed little risk to the community, there was a perception among nearby residents that it could pose a health hazard.

"What is the longer-term strategy for getting rid of contaminated soil? There must be thousands of cubic metres of it?" East said.

Environment Canterbury programme manager Don Chittock acknowledged the disposal of contaminated soil was an issue and said solutions were being sought.

"We have a meeting tomorrow with Transwaste [which operates the Kate Valley landfill] to discuss disposal options . . . we're working with the industry to provide solutions," Chittock said.

The environment committee decided to ask for more information on the removal and disposal of asbestos-contaminated soil. It also voted unanimously to ask the council to write to the minister of building innovation and employment in support of a ban on the importation of materials containing asbestos.

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