Asbestos fears hit home
Tuesday, 6th September, 2011
By Andrew Robertson
The NSW police union said it will “apply some more pressure” to the State Government to force it to make safe hundreds of stations and residences found to be riddled with asbestos or lead after a local policeman discovered he had asbestos in his lungs.
The Police Association’s Western Region organiser, Matt Thompson, said yesterday the government had so far failed to commit any funding for the removal of the hazardous materials from the worst-affected buildings.
A hazardous materials stocktake of all police stations in 2008 found that more than 450 contained asbestos, lead or both.
But the findings were distributed to area commands by the NSW Police Force only last month, three years after the report.
Mr Thompson told the BDT that more than 30 buildings were found to be affected in the Barrier Local Area Command, which takes in Broken Hill.
One of those was once the family home of local police officer, Rick Liston, who discovered he had asbestos in his lungs two years ago.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald last week that while his wife has so far been cleared, they are still waiting to learn if his four children were affected.
Mr Liston and his family lived in the house on the corner of Wolfram and Garnet streets for three years until 2001.
“I actually find it a bit hard to find the words to describe this. It’s unsettling to think that the police I work for did that,” he told the paper.
“It’s almost something you expect criminals to do. It seems like they were deliberately withholding (the report).”
The police association has demanded the government commit $100 million to clean up the affected houses, and wants blanket testing of officers across each local area command.
Mr Thompson said he was not expecting much from today’s State budget.
“We’re going to have to apply some more pressure.”
He said the NSW Police Force had in the last day or two promised to authorise officers to undertake lead testing and or lung tests.
It has also given a commitment that all of the affected buildings will be listed on its website.
“We need our members to accurately record where they’ve potentially been exposed to asbestos or lead and over what time period.”
Mr Thompson said an annual review should have been carried out on each of the houses found to have lead or asbestos, but this also hasn’t been done.
He said in the three years since the stocktake, houses that were classified as a mild risk (A3 or A4) would have deteriorated further.
The association confirmed as much when, on a tour of the Western region last week, president Scott Weber inspected three buildings classified A3 or A4 in 2008 that were now in a worse condition, Mr Thompson said.
He and Mr Weber are planning to tour the remainder of the region, including Broken Hill, next month.