Asbestos fears atdemolition site

QUEENSLAND'S Workplace Health and Safety agency has given the allclear to a major demolition project in Coolangatta despite complaints from workers and the public of asbestos-contaminated dust blowing off site.

A Workplace media spokesman said yesterday that an inspection of the site in Marine Parade this week found that guidelines for the removal of asbestos sheeting were being followed. But the findings did not calm the fears of 50 workers on an adjoining construction site who walked off the job yesterday because of concerns that dust clouds from the site may contain deadly asbestos particles.

Two members of the public also say they were enveloped in dust blowing from a trailer into which workmen were throwing uncovered asbestos roofing sheets from the top of a two-storey building earlier in the week.

Demolitionist John Bastemeyer strongly denied that the removal of several asbestos-riddled 1950s-style holiday cottages was generating asbestos dust, or that it posed any risk.

He said the Workplace agency had inspected the demolition site of the proposed Essence high-rise on five occasions and found no problems.

He also denied that workers were throwing the sheets into the back of a truck, saying that the sheets were passed from worker to worker and placed in the truck without breaking up.

"The dust people are seeing is the accumulation of dust that you get in any old buildings - there is none of the dangerous friable asbestos on site."

Mr Bastemeyer blamed the media for generating unfounded fears about as- bestos which he said had sparked a walkout yesterday by workers on the adjoining site where another high-rise, Reflections, was being constructed.

Two regular walkers said a strong southerly was also blowing the potentially deadly dust over other pedestrians as they walked past the site on Marine Parade.

"We had to turn our heads and stop breathing as we went past on our regular morning walk," said one man, who is retired from a Sydney-based conglomerate specialising in asbestos removal.

He said corrugated sheeting should be wrapped in plastic before being dumped in trucks and workers had to wear full protective clothing, including special breathing apparatus, but until Workplace inspectors arrived on the site on Thursday only a few workers appeared to be wearing masks.

An EPA spokesman said that while his agency had jurisdiction over pollution emanating from a building site, the Workplace agency had prime responsibility because the demolition work was carried out by a commercial operator.

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