A house on Roberts Street is garnering a few glances.
Posted on the fence and exterior of the house, which has been given a permit for demolition, are signs telling people to stay out because an asbestos removal is in progress.
Luke Kolk owns the property and said they are tearing it down with plans for a condo project.
Kolk said he had some suspicions there was asbestos in the exterior shingles. He had taken a sample to get tested and, during that time, someone had also alerted the Workers Compensation Board to the concerns.
“They phoned me and I said ‘I’m not moving it until I figure out what it is,’ ” said Kolk.
The tests came back positive.
Kolk said when you tear down a house, an environmental assessment must be done.
“They test about 25 to 30 samples,” said Kolk, noting lead paint was also found in the house.
Scott Prad, with Anu Enterprises Ltd., is the foreman on the cleanup project.
Inside the house there was a type of texturing, almost like a stucco, on some of the walls and ceilings that contained asbestos.
There was also some in the exterior siding that was removed before Prad and his employer were called.
“We cleaned that up.”
Megan Johnston, communications officer with WorkSafe BC, said no high-risk material was disrupted on the house prior to the discovery of asbestos.
There was also asbestos tape in the basement on some of the furnace ducting.
He said in his experience within the Regional District of Nanaimo an environmental analysis has to be done to determine if there is asbestos or mould.
“It used to be a couple of years ago, you could tear down a house anywhere in Nanaimo, no questions asked. Now they make you look for asbestos with a certified company.”
Prad said WorkSafe BC makes a point of visiting sites to educate workers and make sure regulations are being followed, noting their site has been cleared.
Prad said he knows of two companies in the Nanaimo area that does environmental analysis — Lewkowich Engineering and Pacific Consulting based in Lantzville.
Prad has worked on around 40 homes containing asbestos in the last few years.
In his experience, Prad says flood damage tends to reveal a lot of asbestos in kitchen and bathroom linoleum.
While there are many different places asbestos can be in a home, the worst stuff is when it is in attic insulation, called vermiculite.
“Proper education is definitely the way to go. As long as you handle it with a great respect, it can be handled very safely,” said Prad.
Al Johnson, WorkSafe BC’s regional director who oversees construction, said asbestos is found normally in homes built before 1990.
Asbestos in such products as floor tiles or siding may not present any risk, said Johnson, until they are disturbed by cutting or demolition. It’s then the fibres get released into the air.
“You can’t really tell just by looking at these materials,” Johnson said, who added potential homebuyers purchasing a house made before 1990 should have an analysis done.
Ladysmith building inspector Tom Skarvig, said when people want to demolish a house, they have to go through the city first when requesting a demolition.
“Then I give them a package that WCB has given to me to hand out to any potential demolition or renovation. Because there’s potential asbestos all over the place.”
Skarvig said it is up to the person doing the renovation or demolition to follow what’s in the package. It is not enforceable by city officials.
“WCB enforces it,” said Skarvig. “They don’t have to tell me there’s asbestos in there.”
Skarvig said he is only aware of two asbestos removals in the last two years.
The other removal was at the bottom of White Street.
Kolk said from a realtor point of view, he suggests buyers have the home inspector check for asbestos before buying a house since asbestos has been used in many buildings around town, including the hospital.
“Asbestos, in the last three or four years, has become really an issue,” said Kolk.
Kolk also said to make sure to get a few quotes when it comes to cleanup as the estimates they got back were very different.
For more information on asbestos, visit www.hiddenkiller.ca.