Council have received a number of local enquiries about loose-fill asbestos insulation since the Mr Fluffy insulation concerns in the ACT and Queanbeyan were made public. In response the NSW Government is implementing a financial assistance and support program for homeowners affected by loose-fill asbestos in NSW.
Loose-fill asbestos is raw crushed asbestos, which in the 1960s and 70s was installed in NSW residential properties as insulation. It is a problem that cannot be ignored, because over time, exposure pathways open up and airborne asbestos can move into living areas.
In order to deal with this issue, the NSW Government has determined that demolition of affected properties and comprehensive site remediation is the best way to ensure the safety of the community. Homeowners of properties that test positive for loose-fill asbestos will have the option to either sell their house and land, or house only, to the Government at market value, as if the property was not affected by loose-fill asbestos. Additionally, there are financial assistance and support options available to the affected home owner. Initially only 28 Council areas were believed to contain houses with loose – fill asbestos insulation and fee testing services were made available to home owners in these areas.
Due to significant proposed changes to a range of legislation the Department of Fair Trading believes it prudent to expand the free testing program into all Southern NSW LGAs. As such, Fair Trading will now offer up to 100 free tests to homeowners of pre-1980 homes, meaning that home owners in new Gundagai Council can now access the free sampling service if they are concerned.
Council urges owners of older homes to check their roof spaces. If you don’t know what’s in your roof space, now is the time to check as applications for the free testing closes on 1 August 2016. To be safe, put on a disposal dust mask and gloves and peer through the manhole with a torch. If you can see a loose fibre material lying on top of the ceiling, don’t enter the roof space or disturb the material, as it may contain asbestos. Insulation Batts which are bound together as a blanket are considered safe and should not contain asbestos but any loose material should be treated with suspicion.
It is critical that homeowners act on this now as the NSW Government is proposing new laws to protect the community from unknowingly purchasing a property that contains loose-fill asbestos. Under these laws, when selling a property, a homeowner must confirm in the contract of sale if the property: Contains loose-fill asbestos or is free of loose-fill asbestos.
If a homeowner does not comply with these laws they risk significant financial loss and potential legal action. The Government’s assistance program is their chance to protect themselves from the financial consequences of loose-fill asbestos.
For more information on Loose-Fill asbestos insulation and the free sampling service please contact Mr Chris Imrie of Gundagai Council (Cootamundra Office) on 02 6940 2100 or visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.