Ndlambe halts demolition work after asbestos scare

Ndlambe Municipality has called a halt on demolition and renovation work at a house in Mentone Road after a neighbour complained about an asbestos roof being removed without the necessary safety precautions.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD: The house at 29 Mentone Road, where an asbestos roof was removed in contravention of the required safety precautions Picture: JON HOUZET

The neighbour said he preferred to remain anonymous and approached TotT with his concerns after reporting the matter to the building inspectorate. He said: “To the best of my knowledge and belief, no special precautions were observed in connection with the removal of the asbestos and workers were observed to be removing the roof sheeting without even wearing face masks. To my belief the workers were thus exposed to an unacceptable risk in working with a dangerous and toxic substance and local residents were similarly exposed to the risk of inhaling toxic dust.”

The municipal building inspectorate discovered demolition work had taken place at 29 Mentone Road without a demolition certificate, in contravention of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, and that the asbestos roof had been removed without following regulation 155-OHS-Asbestos of 2001.

In a letter to owner Derek Jacobs, infrastructural development director Noluthando Vithi wrote: “You are hereby called upon to rectify the above matter by ceasing all work with immediate effect and waiting for the plan to be approved by council.

“Failing compliance with this notice, legal proceedings may be instituted against you without further notice.”

In a responding e-mail, Jacobs apologised “if I have put you in a difficult position”.

“It definitely is not my intention and I have stopped all work on site. I have also contacted an accredited asbestos removal company in Port Elizabeth (EC Demolishes) and they will be sending their team down to do a report and removal of the asbestos roof sheeting. Once they have done this they will issue me with a certificate of compliance which I will send you a copy of as well.”

Jacobs said he thought the roof sheeting was “fibre cement”.

Municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said it was a pity the neighbour had not alerted the municipality when demolition was still in progress.

Asbestos was used in construction for many years until its risk to human health was acknowledged. The first wave of asbestos disease occurred in workers involved in the mining and milling of crude asbestos and in the manufacture of asbestos products.

According  to a departmental of environmental affairs advisory pamphlet, asbestos was effectively banned in South Africa since March 2008, “and it is unlikely to find asbestos containing materials in buildings constructed after that year. The golden rule is always: when in doubt assume the material contains asbestos.”

 

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