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QUESTION: Lead-Safe Demolition 11 Aug 2008, Australia

Hello there, i have a query concerning lead contaminated house dust. When older houses are given council approval for demolition , where is there safe procedure for disposal for that dust?. Having seen many houses, especially in the inner west of Sydney, bowled over with very pretty plumes of dust being very nicely recycled over the neighbouring areas I understand the rubble goes into fill but not before its given great help to disperse into the air column.

ANSWER: 20 Apr 2009

Dear Ed,

Firstly, my apologies for the long delay in answering your email. We are chronically understaffed, having a federal government grant that only pays for a staff of one!

You ask an excellent question and your own observations confirm that IF such a procedure exists to stop dust being released during demolition of buildings, then it is certainly NOT being followed in the vast majority of cases of building demolition in inner Sydney.

Please find the following documents from our Info pack on lead-safe demolition attached:

  • City of Botany Bay - Lead plan in demolition conditions - Jun 2003.doc
  • Ashfield Council Demolition & Lead Paint Removal Conditions.doc
  • Rabito et al - association between demolition activity & children's PbBs 20061126.doc
  • Demolition Dust Standard Extracts.doc
  • Leichhardt's Breakthrough LATV1N1.doc

You will also find some useful information about Lead-safe Demolition in:

"Managing Lead Contamination in Home Maintenance, Renovation and Demolition Practices: A Guide for Councils [including an example Development Control Plan (DCP) for lead]."  and our "LEAD SAFETY TOOL KIT FOR COUNCILS: A Tool Kit for making your community safe from lead.

Once you have read the documents, you will see that, depending on the particular Council's Demolition Conditions, and compliance (or otherwise) by the demolition contractors, neighbours and the property itself are variously protected (or not at all protected) from dust escaping from the demolition.

The best plan would demand that ceiling dust be industrial HEPA-vacced out prior to, or at least during, the demolition and that a truck or trailer mounted HEPA vac also be on hand, operated by a member of the Australian Dust Removalists Association (ADRA), to vacuum wall cavity dust during the demolition and underfloor cavity dust following the removal of the floor. If any floorboards were also wetted down with water spray then dust escape from the grooves would be minimised and similarly, roof tiles and tin would be wetted down to reduce dust escape from between the tiles or between the sheets of tin.

You can always draw your Council's attention to these policy and enforcement matters in general, and especially, you can phone your Council whenever you see dust escaping from a demolition site, and request they send an inspector out to determine whether Demolition Conditions are being complied with and whether they should issue any council order to rectify the situation. Similarly, any time you see paid contractors contaminating the environment, you can report them to WorkCover on 131050 and request that an inspector come out and, if necessary, stop the work and order a cleanup.

I just wish demolition contractors were required to measure lead dust and lead soil levels prior to and following the demolition and to pay for cleanup of any contamination they have clearly caused.

I hope this helps you to protect your local environment from the menace of demolition dust.

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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