Asbestos is a deadly material and inhalation of asbestos fibres has been proven to cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and cancer. Because of the dangers associated with the handling of asbestos, its safe removal and disposal is very important.
It is common for householders in older homes to discover of asbestos in, around or under their home.
- Put asbestos in your wheelie bins
- Mix asbestos with other types of waste and take to the tip
- Conceal asbestos in waste loads taken to the tip
- Bury asbestos on your land
The handling and storage of asbestos waste at worksites is regulated by WorkCover NSW, while the storage, disposal and transport of asbestos waste at non-worksites is regulated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once used in building construction. If inhaled it can cause lung cancer and other serious illnesses and mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a generic term for a number of fibrous silicate rock-forming minerals. As a naturally occurring rock fibre, asbestos is mined then broken down from mineral clumps into groups of loose fibres.
Airborne asbestos fibres are small, odourless and tasteless. It presents a health risk when it crumbles and the fine fibres are breathed into the lungs.
What is Asbestos/ACM Waste
Asbestos is a mineral fibre that can only be positively identified with a special type of microscope. There are several different types of asbestos fibres the most accurate way to find out if fibro contains asbestos/ACM is to have a licensed asbestos removal contractor inspect and test it. You can not always identify asbestos/ACM by simply looking at it.
Only fibro products made before 1987 contain asbestos/ACM. In NSW for example, the use of asbestos was discontinued in fibro sheets by 1982, in corrugated sheets by 1984 and in all other products by 1986. The manufacture and use of asbestos/ACM product was banned nationally from 31 December 2003.
Where is it found?
Buildings, houses and flats erected before the mid to late 1980s may contain asbestos. Examples of where asbestos can be commonly found in buildings include:
- Fibro sheeting (commonly found in older garages, bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and external walls)
- Roofs (including eaves and gables) and roof coverings
- Vinyl tiles and backing
- Drainage and flue pipes.
A number of other substances may be present particularly in older buildings that may present health risks if disturbed during renovation or demolition work including but not limited to:
- Lead paint (often in paints used in houses built prior to 1970)
- Synthetic Mineral Fibres (used for thermal and acoustic insulation, and reinforcing agents)
- PCB’s (found in older fluorescent light fittings, transformers and capacitors)
There are special conditions of development consent imposed by Council for demolition, renovation, re-cladding or brick veneering buildings due to the possibility of asbestos. This is to ensure the safety of workers and neighbouring residents and the home owner.
Where Council is the Private Certifying Authority any non-compliance will result in a direction to stop work and the site will be referred to Council’s Environmental Services with work not able to recommence until Council is satisfied that the correct handling and disposal of asbestos material is being followed. Failure to comply with these directions can result in Council taking legal action which may result in the issuing of Penalty Infringement Notice(s) or court imposed fines. Where Council is not the Certifying Authority it is the Private Certifying Authority's responsibility to comply with the special conditions of the development consent. In this instance you should contact the Private Certifying Authority or WorkCover (131 050) to discuss.
NSW Government changes to the NSW Planning system mean that not all Asbestos removal requires Council’s approval. In some circumstances no approval is required at all or approval is given by a Private Certifying Authority who also controls the site whilst works are undertaken. In these circumstances you should contact WorkCover (phone 131050) and the Private Certifier, whose details should be displayed at the site.
Removal and Handling as Part of a Development Application
Council normally requires a licensed asbestos removal contractor be used for the removal of asbestos in all building work that requires development approval and encourages home owners to use licensed contractors in all other circumstances.
Note: To be licensed an asbestos removal contractor must hold a Class A, B or appropriate demolition licence issued by WorkCover for the removal of asbestos. A certificate obtained from a one or two day TAFE course is not the same as an asbestos removal license.
Also see: Asbestos and demolition licence holder search (WorkCover)
Council normally requires a Hazardous Substances Audit (and if hazardous substances are present a Hazardous Substances Management Plan) be prepared for all development applications that involve the demolition of a building.
Demolition means the defacing, destruction, pulling down or removal of that building in whole or in part.
This requirement is in accordance with Australian Standard AS2601.
Removal and Handling of Asbestos that is NOT Part of a Development Application
It is important to get advice about how to identify, remove and handle asbestos and hazardous substances properly.
Special care and management is needed even for small renovation jobs that don’t require a development application.
Snowy Monaro Regional Council recommends you:
Treat all fibro sheets as if they contain asbestos unless tested
Use a licensed asbestos removal contractor to remove all materials containing asbestos.
These recommendations are enforced on all development approvals issued by Council.
Since 1 January 2008, a bonded asbestos licence has been required to remove more than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material. A licensed bonded asbestos removalist can remove any amount of bonded asbestos material. Even though a licence is not required to remove less than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material the removal and disposal of this material must still be carried out in accordance with WorkCover requirements (see WorkCover publication: Working with Asbestos: Guide).
Loads of over 200kg are required to be transported by a licensed waste transporter. Please contact Office of Environment and Heritage (EPA) for details.
Disposing of household asbestos (EPA)
Your Guide to Hiring an Asbestos Abatement Company
Demolition of structures
The hazardous substances audit and any associated management plan may be required up front as part of the assessment process prior to Council issuing consent for the development. Alternatively they may be required to be completed as part of the conditions of a development consent.
What to do about asbestos
If asbestos containing material is in sound condition and left undisturbed it generally will not present a significant health risk. If asbestos fibres remain firmly bound in a solid cement sheet or structure such as in ‘fibro’ sheeting, you do not usually need to remove the fibro or even coat it.
If you have materials in your home you suspect may contain asbestos and are concerned with potential health risks Snowy Monaro Regional Council recommends you contact an Occupational Hygienist or other qualified consultant to sample and analyse the material.
If the material does contain asbestos these qualified persons can also provide advice on how to manage the risks associated with the material.
Disposing of asbestos
At no time is asbestos permitted to be disposed of other than at a licensed landfill facility. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in the issuing of Penalty Infringement Notices or could impose fines.
Council Landfill facility must be contacted before asbestos products are taken there for the protection of workers.
For further information please contact Council using the numbers below.
Mr Fluffy Asbestos Insulation
From 1968 to 1979 loose fill fluffy asbestos was sold by a Canberra company known as Mr Fluffy. In Canberra a large scale removal program occurred in the 1980's and 90’s however this program did not extend to regional NSW.
The NSW Government announced an independent investigation in August 2014 to establish the number of residential properties with ceiling insulation that may contain loose-filled asbestos material.
An independent specialist is working with the NSW Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) to help establish the scope of properties impacted. The investigation will review and assess relevant records including inspection reports, risk assessments and compliance and disposal records.
Under no circumstances should Home owners disturb, or attempt to take samples of any material that is suspected of containing asbestos any sampling should be conducted by an appropriately qualified asbestos specialist only. See the list at the WorkCover website.
Department of Fair Trading Taskforce
Property testing undertaken by a licensed asbestos assessor is the best and safest way to determine whether or not a property contains loose-fill asbestos insulation.
Further information can be found on the programs run by the taskforce at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au - Property testing for loose-fill asbestos