Nova Scotia

Cape Breton housing authority to remove asbestos from homes

A public housing authority in Cape Breton plans to remove asbestos-laden insulation from dozens of homes in two Sydney neighbourhoods.

A public housing authority in Cape Breton plans to remove asbestos-laden insulation from dozens of homes in two Sydney neighbourhoods.

The Cape Breton Island Housing Authority has told tenants it will remove the material and replace the roofs of 64 homes in Ashby Terraces and Whitney Pier Terraces this spring.

That's welcome news to Gail Collette, a mother of three young children who has been living at Ashby Terraces for eight years. Collette said she worries about the health effects of having asbestos in the attics, even though they were sealed off nearly three years ago.

"It's about time they get it outta here because, like I said, it's been a while and I hope they get the right equipment in here and get rid of it," said Collette.

Asbestos, once widely used in construction, has been linked to cancer. But it's dangerous only when fibres are airborne and people inhale them.

A consultant notified authority officials about the asbestos in October 2005, but tenants didn't find out about it until several months later. The province halted renovations on a dozen units in April 2006.

Last week, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, which oversees public housing, was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for not acting quickly enough to protect tenants and workers.

The housing authority plans to hire an environmental consultant and a contractor to strip the insulation from the attics this spring.

"Our expectation is we probably will have work begin by mid-April, and the exact timing of how long that work will take we won't know with certainty until we receive tender submissions," said Joan McKeough, director of the housing authority.

McKeough said in most cases, tenants will have to leave their homes for about four days while the work is completed. The housing authority will cover costs of temporary lodging, meals and other expenses as needed.