[Canada] Two faced on asbestos – by Lorne Gunter (National Post – September 14, 2011)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

June was a very wet month in Edmonton. It rained nearly every day. Sometimes, it poured. And sometimes when it poured, it also blew – hard. Near the end of the month, rain fell for three days straight, while the wind gusted at times from 90 to 110 kilometres per hour.

The downspout from the upper roof of our home emptied onto the lower roof, from where the precipitation rippled across the shingles, disappeared into the eaves, down the pipe attached to the bricks next to the family room window and out onto the lawn.

In the middle of the night on the third straight day of rain, all the water and wind that had played on the roof over all the years succeeded in lifting the corner of one or two shingles. First a little rain, then a lot, snuck under the protective, overlapping asphalt tiles and leaked into our family room through the pot lights in the ceiling.

Around 5: 00 a.m., as the sun was rising on the upper side of the clouds, I was awakened by a dripping sound. Climbing down the stairs, I found some of the rain that should have been running out onto the lawn falling by drips and spoonfuls onto the rug in two places, as well as onto the middle of a large, overstuffed ottoman. More seeped into the walls and blistered the paint behind the couch. Still more ran down studs inside the drywall and trickled into the dark space in the basement behind the hot water heater.

The restoration crew arrived about 7: 00, pulled back the carpet, tore up the soggy underlay and installed a dehumidifier the size of a commercial photocopier that vacuumed and chugged and trickled away for two days. But it was too late to save the ceiling, the foreman informed me; it would have to come down.

Unfortunately, the ceiling from our reno a decade ago had just been nailed up onto the old ceiling. The old stippled ceiling. The one with stipple laced with asbestos.

Thanks to the presence of that substance, our (relatively) simple restoration – some new gyprock, a little sanding, a little paint – has become a monumental hazmat production. It will take seven or eight working days – two to build “the containment,” three or four to remove the 20’x14′ ceiling, and, according to Kevin the on-site high-risk-materials-removal specialist, “at least a day to deconstruct the containment.”

Gone from our family room are the television, the couch, loveseat and lounger, the Blu-ray player, the gaming system, the DVDs and games and the hutch they are stored in. In their place, there is poly everywhere. The walls are sealed tight, the floors, too. The windows are covered over completely with heavy, orange, tearresistant tarps.

The hall from the family room to the side door is blocked off. Down its length has been constructed a dirty room, a shower and a clean room. Our laundry is closed off to us for the duration; it’s now the mechanical room where the water for the shower and the power for equipment inside “the containment” are located.

Each morning, Kevin and his crew arrive and don suits more in keeping with an ebola outbreak or a strontium-90 leak. They have a permit obtained from the provincial government allowing them to remove our ceiling only between certain dates, during certain hours and only from Mondays to Fridays.

Each time one of Kevin’s workers fills a bag full of old stipple, he must take it into the dirty room and double bag it. Then he and the bag take a shower. Lastly they exit our home through the clean room that is sealed to the side door like a lamprey to the underbelly of a bass.

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/faced+asbestos/5398016/story.html