Winnipeg family left homeless after botched asbestos job

A Winnipeg family is homeless after a botched asbestos remediation in their Point Douglas home.

Workman Industries issued cease and desist order after asbestos removal in Winnipeg home

A Winnipeg family is homeless after a botched asbestos remediation in their Point Douglas home. 2:28

A Winnipeg family is homeless after a botched asbestos remediation in their Point Douglas home. 

The company that did the remediation, Workman Industries, has been issued a cease and desist order to stop using the logo of a national certification body on its website. 

"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, the homeowners' son.  "The window was not open, so it was more like for show."
A Winnipeg family has been forced out of this Point Douglas home after an asbestos remediation job was botched inside. (CBC)

The Point Douglas home on Austin Street has been owned by Cameron's parents, Rafaelita and Victor Cameron, for 37 years.  They live there along with their daughter, Cherielyn Yabas, her husband and their one month old daughter, Saffiya. 

"[I'm] scared for all of us, especially for her," said Cerielyn, looking down at her infant daughter. "She's so young."

Rafaelita Cameron had hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace the old boiler system with a new high efficiency furnace, but the company could not do the installation until the old boiler, which was covered in asbestos, was removed. 

So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to go to the Point Douglas home on Aug. 7 to do the remediation. 

Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally don't pose a health risk, according to Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It's only when the asbestos is disturbed, and the dust is emitted into the air that it poses a risk to human health, the agencies say.  In significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis and lung cancer.

"I never talked to [Workman] before [the work started]," said Rafaelita Cameron.

Family notices 'red flags'

When the crew arrived, Rafaelita and her daughter noticed red flags. 

They said the workers were not wearing protective equipment or masks.

Rafaelita, Yabas and her one-month-old daughter, Saffiya, were all in and out of the home as they were not instructed to stay away. 

They eventually realized there were no barriers created to separate the basement job site from the remainder of the home.  Rafaelita said she confronted one of the workers.

"I said 'Where's the barrier? How come there's no barrier?'' she said. 

That's when she contacted her son, Jon Cameron, to step in. 

Cameron video-taped the company as they removed the old asbestos covered boiler in pieces without wrapping any of it in plastic. 

"Pretty much just bare-handing these materials from the basement.  I didn't notice any masks," said Jon Cameron. "These guys were wearing T-shirts and shorts and jeans. There was nothing to indicate they were taking precautions in handling asbestos."

Jon Cameron contacted the province. 

Workplace Safety and Health issues stop-work order

The next morning, Workplace Safety and Health issued stop-work orders against Workman Industries and Sarte Heating and Cooling for a botched asbestos remediation. 

The orders says "Asbestos containing material is being released into the atmosphere at this project site," and measures used to control asbestos were not used. 

The family said the agency photographed open bags of asbestos still in the basement and told them their home and its contents are contaminated, so they should not be there.

"It was very shocking," said Jon Cameron, "I was scared and was very angry because this is my family, and they mean everything to me.  There's no reason for endangering people's lives."

CBC News contacted Sarte Heating and Cooling. 

The owner, Lito Mendoza, said his heart goes out to the family, but Workman Industries should be responsible for the clean-up. 

When asked why he arranged for Workman Industries to do the work, he said he has only had one previous job with Workman and the air quality tests done after the fact came back with good results. 

Mendoza said his company has not taken a deposit from the homeowners at this time and said he has offered to pay $500.00 towards their accommodations while they are displaced. 

Construction safety association issues cease and desist order

CBC News tried to contact Workman Industries without success. 

The address listed on its web page is the location where the owner picks up his mail. 

Workman's website shows a Certificate of Recognition (COR) Program logo, certification which is typically obtained through the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba. 

Typically, the logo means a company has a safety and health program that meets national standards. 

However, when CBC News contacted the association, it said Workman Industries has never been certified by them. 

The association sent Workman Industries a cease and desist letter yesterday, ordering them to stop improperly using the logo. 

The association said the company did attend some classes in 2010 but has never completed the program. 

Family wants home back

Meanwhile, Cherielyn Yabas and her family just want their home and their lives back. 

"We have nothing.  Everything's in that house," said Yabas, "It's our home.  We just want to go home."

Jon Cameron said he wants a certified company to do the work. 

"It needs to be cleaned.  It needs to be approved by a trustworthy company," Cameron said.

"My parents need their home back. My sister and brother-in-law and their one-month-old baby need their home back," he said. "It's a horrible feeling to be displaced.  It's a horrible feeling to know your family is without a home and because of no fault of their own — simply because they put their trust in so-called professionals that this would be done properly."