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Police slam asbestos “neglect”

Saturday, 13th August, 2011

 Local police have still not been officially notified about the existence of asbestos in many police-owned properties, according to their union.

 This was despite NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher promising on Monday to pass on the information, said Robert Dunn of the Police Association of NSW.

 “The commitment’s been given by the minister on Monday, and the information we have is that’s yet to happen in Barrier,” Mr Dunn told the BDT yesterday.

 The association claims 337 buildings are affected by asbestos or lead paint or both across the Western region, including 38 in Barrier LAC.

 It says NSW Police have known about the existence of the harmful materials for years but “sat on” the reports.

 Officers, who only found out about the problem this month, are now threatening to take industrial action unless the asbestos and lead paint are removed from nearly 500 NSW police properties.

 Mr Dunn said asbestos appeared to be the main problem but he did not know in which towns the 38 affected properties in the Barrier LAC were situated, or the type of buildings.

 However, he knew of one police residence in Wanaaring which had been given the second highest rating of A2 after an inspection some years ago.

 “It’s been vacant for a while and there’s someone about ready to move into it and it’s suddenly become an A4,” Mr Dunn said.

 “We’re a little suspicious, to say the least.”

 The buildings inspected and found to the affected were given one of four ratings ranging from most serious, A1, to least serious, A4.

 But Mr Dunn said the true extent of the problem was likely greater, as inspections were limited to the exterior of buildings.

 “The internal portion of the properties were unseen.”

 Mr Dunn said the association was blaming the NSW government, not local police management, for a “very very serious health risk to members and their families”.

 “Police properties are notorious for going into disrepair because (NSW Police) are failing to maintain properties,” he said.

 “There just seems to be no money there to do it.”

 The association was now encouraging its members to log any problems they have with their police houses and to notify their command.

 If nothing is done in 21 days the union will take the matter up with the NSW tenancy tribunal.

 The association wants Mr Gallacher to set aside $100 million to fix the properties and to guarantee a full investigation into why nothing was done earlier.

 Asbestos fibres cause respiratory disease and cancer, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, but these can take decades to develop.

 Superintendent Darryl Tuck of the NSW Police Properties Group said in a statement last week there were “tens of thousands of buildings in the general community across NSW that contain asbestos or lead paint” and that “the age and condition of each site determines the scale of the risk”.

 “The scale of risk can be affected by something as simple as a crack in a piece of fibro to lead-based paint on a wall starting to flake and peel,” he said. - BDT/AAP


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