Horsham councillor slams DIY asbestos program

A HORSHAM Rural City councillor believes council’s decision to join an asbestos removal kit pilot program will encourage residents to remove the deadly substance themselves.

Cr Mark Radford warned council it was headed down a dangerous track by supporting the program, which will see domestic asbestos removal kits handed out to do-it-yourself removalists.

“I’m totally opposed to encouraging people to play with asbestos – and that’s exactly what this council is talking about doing,” he said.

“There are so many things that can go wrong with this stuff. I’m really surprised that we’re supporting this.”

Councillors voted 6-1 in favour of joining the pilot program on Monday night.

A joint initiative of Worksafe, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Environment Protection Authority  and the Department of Health, the program will provide residents with safety kits aimed at alleviating the risk of asbestos inhalation.

"There are so many things that can go wrong with this stuff. I’m really surprised that we’re supporting this."

The program is also designed to reduce resident complaints and the extent of illegal dumping.

Horsham will receive 50 kits, which will be made available to residents, and provide a $30 subsidy to renovators for disposal of the waste.

Council can charge up to $55 for the kits, which will contain material to double-wrap asbestos material before it is deposited at the Dooen landfill.

Under the program, individuals are entitled to remove up to 10 square metres of asbestos material and are limited to two kits.

Cr Radford said he fell off his chair when he read the proposal. 

“In my trade I’ve seen some terrible do-it-yourself projects,” he said.

“I’d encourage the technical services department to visit an approved asbestos removalist and look at his kit of tools and what is required.

“Certainly, make overalls available and maybe hand out a book – but once you start getting to council bearing responsibility, you’re encouraging people to do it themselves.”

Mayor David Grimble said council would play a role in highlighting the risks of do-it-yourself asbestos removal to residents who picked up the kits.

He said he was happy to enter a pilot program that had been approved by the State Government, EPA and Worksafe.

“The kits will give people the right tools and information to understand the best option is to use a licensed asbestos removalist,” he said.

“I see that as a fairly responsible way forward. It doesn’t necessarily create extra people doing the wrong thing. 

“If people are given the right information, it might address Cr Radford’s concerns.”

Cr Pam Clarke said asbestos was a personal issue for her family.

“I lost my brother-in-law to asbestosis, he was a builder and he used all the right equipment,” she said.

“My husband is an asbestos-trained removalist – we know the damage.”

Cr Clarke said entering the pilot program was a way to provide residents with advice to make an informed decision.

“I agree with Cr Radford absolutely – it is dangerous stuff and we shouldn’t be handling it,” she said.

“My concern is that if we don’t provide this stuff, people are going to do it anyway.”

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