Asbestos fear for homeowner

EMERALD Beach homeowners Tony and Claire Rodriguez fear they have been exposed to asbestos.

Over the fence from their Fiddaman Rd property, work is under way to demolish a house, containing the hazardous material.

The building has been acquired by the Roads and Traffic Authority under the Sapphire to Woolgoolga Pacific Highway upgrade project.

It is understood joint contractors for the $705 million highway project, Leighton and Fulton Hogan, contracted a licensed asbestos removal company to conduct the demolition.

As a workman in protective clothing and a respirator mask removed asbestos sheeting from the house on Monday, the windows to his home remained open, Mr Rodriguez said.

He said the first he knew about an asbestos clean-up was when he spotted the safety fencing erected around the property with countless warning signs that asbestos was present.

“They told me the demolition of the house was going to happen, but they never said anything about asbestos,” Mr Rodriguez said.

“I came home and the windows were open ... it was a windy day and there was dust in the house.

“I wanted to turn on the heater (a reverse-cycle air-conditioner), but I thought it could be full of asbestos.”

Mr Rodriguez said his only protection was a timber fence (pictured).

The RTA responded saying it contacted Workcover yesterday in response to Mr Rodriguez’s concerns and an inspection was carried out.

“Workcover completed this inspection (yesterday) and advised it remains satisfied the work complies with the stringent safety requirements, which apply to work involving asbestos,” an RTA spokesman said.

“A licensed demolition contractor, accredited and experienced in removing asbestos safely, was engaged to carry out the demolition.

“An pre-inspection of the house before the demolition showed the asbestos is chrysotile (white asbestos, which poses less risks to public safety),” he said.

The RTA said the Sapphire to Woolgoolga project team contacted Mr Rodriguez about the demolition work on August 10 and had since explained the safety measures that were in place. 

Mr Rodriguez denies that he has been contacted since the demolition started.

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