A Pearce home owner is seeking legal advice after buying a home formally cleared by the ACT government of having Mr Fluffy asbestos, only to find out that was an administrative mistake and there is potentially deadly loose amosite asbestos in his walls and floors.
Retired engineer Tim Lyon holds grave concerns for the health of the family who previously lived in the home and who undertook extensive renovations during the 1990s. Those concerns extend to tradespeople who may have been exposed to the type 1 carcinogen while they replaced the kitchen, bathroom, wiring, extended the dining room and installed bay windows.
The office of Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, who is acting Workplace Safety Minister, indicated on Tuesday that no attempt had been made to contact the previous owners but that the government had been proactive in providing regular reminders to Canberrans ”on the importance of being aware of the possible dangers of exposure to asbestos”.
Mr Lyon bought his home in 2008, confident it did not harbour any asbestos.
His Lease Conveyancing report from the ACT Planning and Land Authority stated: ”Records indicate that loose asbestos was not identified in the ceiling cavities of these premises (but not including any shed or garage on the property) during the government program conducted in the early 1990s.”
He was therefore surprised to find a reminder in his letterbox in late February that his home had contained Mr Fluffy roof insulation and, even though it had been removed in the $100 million Commonwealth clean-up program, he should have it checked regularly by a licensed assessor.
He rang Canberra Connect to check why the letter had arrived at his address.
Soon after, a call from the Office of Industrial Relations in the Chief Minister’s and Treasury Directorate informed him there had been a mistake in the conveyancing report and his property was, indeed, a Mr Fluffy home.
When Mr Lyon asked for the paperwork and asbestos report on the property, he was told to apply to pay for the documents through ACTPLA or to submit a freedom-of-information request.
He was also given a number for ACT Health to seek medical advice on potential asbestos exposure. The spokesman for the acting minister said: ”The home owner in question has been advised of the ability to obtain the building file for his home, and that this can be obtained from him on providing evidence that he is the home owner.
”The asbestos removal file requires an FOI request, as it predates him owning the house and has information on the file relating to previous owners.”
Mr Lyon said he experienced a range of emotions after the confirmation of asbestos in his home, including immediate concern he had been exposed while carrying out minor work underneath his house.
He was also incensed that the Chief Minister’s and Treasury Directorate did not offer to forward him the paperwork relating to his home, despite having his file there at the time of the phone conversation.
”Surely, if this is their mistake, they should be helping me to get as much information as I could about my house,” he said.
He was told that he had received an asbestos removal certificate with his house contract, but when he looked up the documents, there was only a blank page.
”I honestly don’t know what to make of it. All I know is the information I relied on was the statement that the house did not contain asbestos.
”Would I have bought the house had I known its history? I can’t say, but I would at least have liked to be fully informed before I had made my decision.”
Mr Lyon has since had a licensed asbestos assessment, which confirmed remnant asbestos in his wall cavities and subfloor – the second recent confirmation in Pearce that the Mr Fluffy loose amosite asbestos has escaped beyond the roof cavity despite the forensic cleaning program of the 1990s.
Mr Lyon faces a substantial bill in remediation work, including sealing parts of the walls and floors.
He was, however, relieved that air monitoring showed no asbestos was inside his home.
Mr Lyon said he was seeking legal advice regarding the ACT government’s handling of his case and was also considering demolishing the house.