Asbestos contamination in houses across NSW could cost up to $12 million to remediate, according to estimates from the Loose Fill Asbestos Taskforce.
While a parliamentary inquiry suggested that houses found to be fitted with the deadly substance should be demolished, the taskforce is instead considering less severe measures.
NSW Public Works has launched a tender process to find a company that can explore the most cost-effective options for contaminated homes. The contract is expected to be worth between $9 million and $12 million, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The NSW government has taken a different approach to the ACT, where $1 billion was put aside for the buy-back and demolition of dwellings fitted with asbestos. Approximately 1,000 properties in the ACT are thought to contain the deadly material.
Asbestos is linked with a variety of critical illnesses, including mesothelioma and silicosis. Mesothelioma is typically a fast-acting disease, with sufferers often dying within a year of diagnosis.
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry revealed nearly half (46.8 per cent) of patients who were told they had the illness in 2012 had passed away by June the following year. Furthermore, more than 600 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012 alone.
Over the last two weeks, three houses in Queanbeyan have been identified as containing loose-fill asbestos fitted by contractor Mr Fluffy. The company used the material for insulation in NSW and ACT homes during the 1960s and 1970s.
Demolition of houses ‘essential’
The Loose Fill Asbestos Taskforce has suggested that the risk of exposure to the hazardous substance is small in contaminated houses provided airways are sealed off and the material is left undisturbed.
However, Nationals MP for Monaro John Barilaro said the state must buy affected homes and destroy them to prevent any chance of people developing life-threatening diseases.
“The idea that pathways such as vents, light fittings and manholes can be sealed to a point that completely limits asbestos fibres from entering living areas is, and has been proven to be, impossible,” he explained.
“As someone that has had twenty years in the building industry, you cannot limit pathways.”
The NSW government is offering a free voluntary testing service for households concerned their property may be fitted with asbestos. Of the 1,650 homes investigated, seven were contaminated.
Mr Barilaro said a buy-back and demolition scheme would cost approximately $70 million if around 100 homes are affected. He argued that this cost could be later recouped by selling the land.