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Survey finds asbestos at town hall

Lead-based paint and asbestos have been identified at the old town hall. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

A Masterton District Council [MDC] survey of its old buildings found asbestos throughout the town hall building, as well as lead-based paint on its exterior.

It also found asbestos at council-owned senior housing, but work to fix this is now either done or scheduled for completion.

The 2019 report on the town hall, which was predicated on demolition, highlighted several areas of high-risk asbestos content and lower risk areas.

Testing showed asbestos throughout the building, including in pipe cladding, cement board lining, floor areas, and insulation, ranging in risk from high to very low, a council spokesperson said.

No decision has been made on the future of the building, but the recommended action in each case of asbestos was removal.

Lead-based paint above the lead threshold of 5000mg/kg was also found at the south external wall of the town hall building, but does not pose an immediate risk to health.

The paint, which measured 5800mg/kg in lead, was on the lower part of the town hall facade and would only pose a risk if the paint was to be removed or the building demolished.

A survey of several other council-owned buildings have been done between the years 2018 and 2021.

In 2018, asbestos was found in three of nine samples at the Douglas Villa clubroom.

The recommendation from the report was to “manage and label” affected areas.

The asbestos-containing materials were removed this year when the upper storey was re-clad.

The same year, surveying found two of five samples at the Masterton District Library tested positive for asbestos.

Each sample was from the roof space and no removal was recommended.

At the recreation centre, four of 19 samples returned positive for asbestos in 2018.

Some cladding at the centre was removed and replaced last year as a specific planned piece of work arising from the report.

This year, reports were done at the council’s senior housing buildings at Truro, Panama Village, Laurent Pl, and Bodmin Flats.

A council spokesperson said MDC had chosen to fully replace the soffits in its pensioner housing portfolio, as part of upgrading ventilation to bathrooms and kitchens under the new Healthy Homes requirements.

“The council arranged for HazMat to provide a presentation to tenants in July.

“The asbestos material in the soffits in its current conditions is safe.

“As with any asbestos, airborne fibres present the risk.

“Work replacing the soffits will be carried out on a staged basis, with installation of ventilation, and is scheduled to be completed early next year.”

The spokesperson said many buildings built before the asbestos regulations of 1983 contained asbestos.

“The material is not hazardous if contained, but presents a health risk if fibres become airborne.

“Masterton District Council follows the recommendations of experts regarding its treatment.

“If refurbishment work is planned for buildings, the normal approach is also to remove asbestos.” – NZLDR

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