NBN disaster

Asbestos holes with Steve, Panania Photo by Radim Cechvala

NBN Co has apologised to residents who weren’t told about asbestos being removed from old telecommunications pits as part of the cable rollout in the Canterbury-Bankstown area.

Locals expected ‘fibre to node’ not ‘fibro in lungs’

An NBN Co spokesperson said they were also in discussions with the council on the matter.

“We are working closely with our delivery partner to establish the facts of what has taken place in the Canterbury-Bankstown area, as part of an immediate formal investigation into the issue,” she said.

“The safety and wellbeing of the community is NBN’s first priority and we take this matter very seriously.”

Residents need to be told about asbestos when it is found in old telecom pits as they are replaced to accommodate the NBN, says Canterbury Bankstown Councillor Steve Tuntevski.

He said that over the past few weeks, he’d seen “teams of young men replacing telecommunication pits containing asbestos located on the council’s footways and nature strips”, as part of the Federal Government’s rollout of the NBN.

“Residents are expecting fibre to the node, not fibro in their lungs,” he said.

“I want to ensure that residents are not inadvertently exposed to airborne asbestos dust fibres during the NBN rollout.”

At last week’s council meeting, Cr Tuntevski called on Canterbury Bankstown Council to ask NBN Co to notify residents when existing telecommunication pits containing asbestos are replaced and ensure that the area is certified to be free of contaminated dust or debris.

He also moved for the council to ask the NBN to ensure the removal of asbestos was carried out by “suitably trained, experienced and qualified personal”.

“I am concerned about the lack of transparency associated with the removal of asbestos contained in telecommunication pits, as householders have not been notified about it,” he said.

“Residents have a right to know so, at the very least, they have the opportunity to take further precautionary safety measures, such as avoiding the immediate work area, closing the house windows and doors, or leaving their homes for the day,” he said.

Apologising to residents for the concern, the matter will have caused, an NBN Co spokesperson said they wanted to underline that their expectation was that “all delivery partners working on our behalf comply with rigorous standards, safety practices and laws when it comes to asbestos management”.

“This includes notifying properties immediately adjacent to worksites where asbestos removal is due to take place,” she said.