The province has ordered two local companies to decontaminate a house after a botched asbestos-removal job forced a family from their Winnipeg home.
A Winnipeg family hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace the old boiler system in her Point Douglas home but was told the company couldn’t do the old work until the old boiler, which was covered in asbestos, was taken out.
So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to do asbestos remediation in the home, but when workers showed up, they weren’t wearing safety gear and were carting open asbestos through the home.
"There was open bags of asbestos. There was an air filtration machine running but with the hose running out to nowhere basically," said Jon Cameron, who lives in the home, "The window was not open, so it was more like for show."
Workplace Safety and Health had issued a stop-work order against Workman Industries and Sarte Heating and Cooling after the Cameron family filed a complaint.
Now, Workplace Safety and Health has gone further.
Chief Occupational Medical Officer Richard Rusk said Workman Industries must decontaminate the house.
“They claim to be able to do that. They’ve also demonstrated that they have not done it correctly, so we would inspect to make sure the abatement is done correctly,” said Rusk.
The province’s stop-work order dated Aug. 12 cites five violations, ranging from releasing asbestos particles into the air, failing to give notice of an asbestos removal project and failing to train and equip employees handling the asbestos.
Such violations can run a fine of $2,500.
Rusk said anyone who lives in an older house should be aware of the risks.
“In the older houses, houses older than 1990, definitely older than 1980, most likely have a fair amount of asbestos in them,” said Rusk. “That's a lot of houses in Winnipeg, and people need to be aware that if you're going in to do renovations or into the ceiling or changing boilers and heating pipes, the likelihood of that being contained by asbestos is high.”
Rusk said homeowners put themselves at risk if the work isn’t carried out properly.
Right now, the home isn’t fit for the Cameron family to live in, and they’ve been forced out until the work can be completed.
Rusk said because the department’s mandate is to look after workers, they can’t help them.
Instead, Rusk said, “The family unfortunately has to go to their lawyers or talk to consumer affairs.”
He said it’s unfortunate, but with work like this, “in some ways, it’s buyer beware.”