Originally published online at WAToday.com.au on 13 November 2015. This article gives an inside look at a Canberra Mr Fluffy asbestos home before demolition takes place.
For ACT government asbestos taskforce boss Andrew Kefford, wall-to-ceiling blue paint inside an otherwise unremarkable Scullin home is proof enough of the threat Canberra Mr Fluffy asbestos poses.
Before the three-bedroom, brick-veneer house is demolished on Monday, Mr Kefford and contractors working on site have opened the house to The Canberra Times, offering an in-depth briefing on the detailed preparation that comes before homes with toxic loose-fill asbestos are torn down.
The scene is stark.
Every surface has been stripped bare, soft furnishings including carpet and curtains are long gone, holes have been cut in the floor and ceiling, and the back room is all but filled with a huge pile of rubbish, including the kitchen sink.
Outside the house stand two drums for sealed asbestos waste and a huge enclosed skip for contaminated material. Smoke testing has been completed and eight air monitors and visits by inspectors show there is no risk to neighbours or anyone else.
Asbestos dust has been vacuumed from the roof, wall spaces and the sub-floor, and strict entry and exit procedures for workers have limited risk from any fibres. Negative air pressure was created using plastic wrapping and holes cut in widows, and workers were repeatedly cleaned before leaving the site.
Any trace of Mr Fluffy asbestos has been forensically removed since the home’s former occupants left in February. If any fibres remain, which is unlikely, they have been stuck with PVA glue sprayed on every remaining surface.
Everywhere, the dyed blue solution is a final warning of the Fluffy footprint. But this house is now safe enough for visitors to enter without any protective masks or equipment.
The only unexpected discovery here was some concrete sheeting in the ceiling, prompting more visits by inspectors but barely slowing down progress at all.
Mr Kefford said anyone who believed Mr Fluffy homes could have been cleaned safely should be convinced by the hollowed-out homes.
Such is the meticulous pre-demolition process, the home’s remaining shell might not last an hour when demolition crews get to work on Monday morning.
“I think it is important for people to be able to see as well as hear information and education about the demolition program,” he said.
“We are comfortable and confident that this process can and is being done safely but at the same time, people can hear the chief health officer say there is no risk, they can hear the WorkSafe commissioner say it … part of backing that up is to show why we have that level of confidence.”
“The blue is to show that the whole inside of the house has been dealt with, cleaned, sealed and is ready to be demolished. But even more, before we start on Monday, the whole of the inside of the house gets soaked with water.”
Mr Kefford said the pilot demolition program and subsequent demolitions had led to refinements to the process and broad improvements on safety, efficiency and communication.
“Some of those will be simple things like where we put the waste, and how we transport it. Others are more significant in terms of different methodologies,” he said.
As of this week, 765 Mr Fluffy houses are owned and being maintained by the ACT government. A total of 954 owners have accepted offers for their properties to be purchased through the buyback at a cost of $688.5 million.
The Scullin home will be the 27th demolition across 19 suburbs. The taskforce expects to meet its target of 50 demolitions before the end of the year.