New Home Buyers Find Land Filled With Asbestos
Justin James’s potentially deadly surprise has raised questions over more than 700 other lots in the subdivision, which is near Pakenham.
A contractor noticed asbestos after Mr James’s home was built. Asbestos sheeting, some crumbling, pokes through the topsoil in his backyard.
The risk of disturbing the toxic dust means that he can’t dig a garden, and his daughter Emily, just 18 months old, can’t play there.
He’s concerned about his pregnant wife and unborn son.
“We were moving into a new house on a new block,” Mr James said.
“We weren’t going into an old place, where we would have expected we should be careful,” he said.
The development company offered to remove the asbestos as a “goodwill gesture” after the contamination was discovered, but only if the couple signed a deed of release forfeiting any rights they had to take legal action.
They were presented with it the day before the clean-up was due to begin.
“We didn’t sign it,” Mr James said.
“We didn’t expect there would be asbestos on our land when we bought it.
“Why would we?”
The couple bought the block off the plan in 2008, and builders finished their house by May 2010.
Mr James said that none of their contractors working on the project had moved landfill on to their property after they had bought the block.
The cement sheeting in the landfill contains blue, white and brown asbestos — all of which can cause diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
The Jameses’ lawyer, John Barrett, said that the property developer should have known of the presence of asbestos when it sold the property to the couple. He said: “They should not have been filling any property with contaminated material and they should fix the problem, and be liable for any issues in the future this soil might cause.”
Mr James said he would be “very, very surprised if we’re alone with this problem in the subdivision”.
“Originally we just wanted to have it cleaned up,” he said.
“But now we have a young family, and the complications that presents. It’s reasonable for the developer to pay us what the house and land would now be worth if it wasn’t contaminated.
“We’ll move somewhere else,” Mr James said.
The company had threatened Mr James with legal action if he went to the media or conducted letterbox drops raising his concerns.
Damien McKenna, from the developer’s lawyers, said his clients denied putting any asbestos on the family’s block.
In an email, Mr McKenna said: “No other asbestos has been identified, located or removed on the subdivision by our clients”.
Mr McKenna said the piles of dirt to which Mr James referred was from excavation for roads and was removed later.