The loose-fill asbestos at Ainslie shops will finally be removed from the first floor above Edgar’s Inn from October 3, in an operation the owner says will take just two weeks.
Building owner Jeff Darwin has contracted removalist Caylamax to remove the Fluffy asbestos from the first-floor ceiling space at the corner building.
The first floor will be wrapped in plastic, and the well loved corner pub below will be closed for the removal operation.
Mr Darwin said he did not plot to remove the roof and did not plot to demolish the first floor of the building at this stage. The plot was to remove internal, non-structural walls and the ceiling to clean out the loose asbestos fibres.
Testing during the clean-up would determine whether more work was needed to get a clearance certificate so the first floor space could be tenanted, Mr Darwin said.
But an Access Canberra spokeswoman said the building would still need to be demolished – preferably “sooner rather than later”.
Mr Darwin did not say how much he was paying Caylamax for the clean-up, but the cost is being borne by Mr Darwin as building owner and not paid by the ACT government.
The Edgar’s building is the only commercial building in Canberra where the perilous Mr Fluffy asbestos was found, other than a childcare centre, which was part of the clean-up
It is also the only known building where the loose-fill asbestos remains in situ.
The insulation was removed from more than 1000 Canberra houses in a mass Commonwealth clean-up at the end of he 1980s and early 1990s.
While the bulk of the material was removed from ceilings, the ACT government learned in 2013 that it remained in the wall cavities and sub-floors, and is now demolishing all of the houses.
Former owners are upset that the government deemed it acceptable to simply clean the Ainslie shops building when their homes had to be demolished.
But Mr Darwin said the clean-up would be more rigorous than the clean-up of homes in the late 1980s, and there would be testing for fibres throughout, and it would be done “under the strictest safety standards that we can apply”.
There were “a lot of unknowns”, but “things will become better known as removal process develops”, he said.
Edgars Inn owner Frank Condi said the forced closure would be a “massive financial hit”.
“The government won’t compensate us, the insurance company won’t compensate us and we are in negotiation with the landlord,” Mr Condi said.
While he could absorb some of the financial hit, he said it was his casual workers that would lose out.
“We’re seeing if other businesses can help us out [by taking on staff],” Mr Condi said.
On the possible demolition of the building, Mr Condi said he was in “the hands of the landlord and the government”.
It isn’t just the Edgars building that has been affected by the discovery of the asbestos.
In March, Robsons found that the asbestos from the corner building at 1 Edgar Street had migrated into the ceiling of the neighbouring building at No 3, which houses a newsagency and laundromat on the ground floor and a therapeutic massage business on the first floor.
A positive sample was also returned from the building next to that, which houses a bakery and takeaway.
Robsons said No 1 and No 3 should be cleaned as soon as possible and later demolished. Number 5 should be cleaned.
Mr Darwin said the October clean-up related only to No 1, and would make it safe to tenant, with no decisions made about later demolition.
Nos 3 and 5 and 7 are owned by the Xyrakis family.
Robsons said loose asbestos was throughout the ceiling at 1 Edgar St. Bundles of amosite asbestos fibres had migrated through openings and cracks in the plasterboard ceiling of the first-floor flat, and into the wall cavities. No asbestos was found in the Edgar’s bar below.
Six of 11 tests in the roof space at 3 Edgar Street were positive for asbestos, but no fibres had been found in the first-floor massage business.
At 5 Edgar Street, one of 11 ceiling samples was positive for amosite asbestos. None was found in the first-floor space.
No asbestos was found in the roof space of 7 Edgar Street.
Initially an environmental clean at No 3 had to be completed by the end of September but Manuel Xyrakis said that work would now take place next February when its leaking roof would be replaced.
It would take about three weeks, Mr Xyrakis said, likely meaning wings of the offices upstairs would have to be closed for two or three days at a time.
After the clean was finished, they would have to test for asbestos fibres once a year.
Mr Xyrakis said while the government had indicated it would have preferred to demolish No 3, there had never been any loose-fill asbestos in its roof cavity so it was satisfied with a clean.
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