TELSTRA was forced to send a second technician to remove asbestos-like material loose on a disturbed Scenic Road inspection pit cover today after a previous clean up attempt left lumps behind.
Pictured: Mr Nelson, seen here near the disturbed pit yesterday, is concerned the community does not know enough about the risks of asbestos. Photos by William PJ Kulich unless otherwise credited.
Warragul man Louis Nelson noticed several pieces of the material sitting on the cover of an inspection pit outside his house and down the street yesterday afternoon, but it wasn’t until late today that the street was properly cleaned up.
“I almost recoiled on the spot as if I saw a snake on the ground. It’s as if some kids have come along and lifted up the lid for a look, and the asbestos pit lining has been broken up,” Mr Nelson told The Warragul Citizen.
“The lid [was] mostly put back in place, but the broken pieces are just sitting on top of it, right next to the footpath. I reported it immediately to Telstra’s helpline, who seemed to take the issue seriously.”
Pictured: the pit and asbestos-like pieces.
A technician reached the pit this morning and Mr Nelson was told the job was finished, but some material had been left behind.
“The lid had been put properly back into place and most of the asbestos gone, however there was still a little piece left on top of the lid,” he said.
“I don’t know what actually happened there or how they dealt with it, but they didn’t clean it up.
“They didn’t even call me as requested about the other pieces down the street.”
Pictured: the material left behind. Photo by Louis Nelson.
A second technician was sent this afternoon and Mr Nelson said he is now happy with the clean up but has expressed concern about how the incident was managed.
“It’s clear protocols aren’t being followed here and it seems to me that there isn’t the level of seriousness in dealing with asbestos in public areas which is required and called for by this dangerous substance.”
A Telstra spokesperson told The Warragul Citizen the company was taking the incident seriously.
“We take these matters very seriously, especially in regards to public safety,” the spokesperson said.
“We have since had a second technician attend the site who has removed some material and spoken to the local resident who initially called us (Mr Nelson).
“We are testing some material that was on top of a pit lid to determine its composition.
“We are urgently continuing to look into the matter.”
Asbestos is a fine fibrous material which when inhaled can become embedded in lung tissue. The possible health side-effects of inhalation, which include asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and pleural disease, occur up to 30 years after the substances enters the lung. These diseases often lead to death.
Mr Nelson has taken the incident as a chance to push for improved education about the risks and prevalence of asbestos.
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“It seems harmless enough at the time, but 30 years down the track you could be on your way to dying a horrible death,” Mr Nelson said.
“That’s what’s so f–king scary about this stuff. Grown adults have no idea how prevalent this stuff is in our houses and in our drainage and just about all public infrastructure, it’s everywhere.
“At a garage sale late last year in Warragul one bloke had a long bit of pipe for sale in his front yard, and it was clearly asbestos piping, and he was telling me he was trying to make a pizza oven flu out of it.”
Houses constructed between 1945 and 1980 usually contained large amounts of asbestos, which was used as an insulator. Asbestos was banned as a building material in 1989, and was only completely banned from all new uses a decade ago.
Pictured: the pit is next to a pavement and near Scenic Road.
Asbestos is still common, and statistics from the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council suggest a majority of public buildings and around one third of private dwellings built in the peak period of asbestos usage contain asbestos in concrete, cement sheeting, pipes and insulation and elsewhere. Much of the older housing in regional Victoria was built in that period.
A number of older Telstra inspection pits are lined with asbestos.
“They talk about the third wave of asbestos victims now being home renovators. I’ve driven down the street and seen people ripping apart their awnings and any home that was built from the 1940s to 60s and onwards more than likely has asbestos in those awnings,” Mr Nelson said.
“There should be education about this stuff from the earliest possible point where kids can comprehend something like this. There should be just as much emphasis on asbestos education as there is for the harms of smoking.”
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