Crews have started to demolish an eyesore building off Cumberland Road, but signs stating the site contains asbestos has a neighbouring business owner concerned.
The site where Just’n Tyme Greenhouse and Hydroponic Supply store once sat at 1094 MacKenzie Ave. — which is off Cumberland Road where Buckerfield’s previously was — has been filled with debris and old product since the building was destroyed by fire last September.
Crews started work to clean up the site Tuesday, but Community Thrift Store owner Carol Marlow became concerned when she saw signs go up stating the site contains the dangerous substance, as her business is directly across MacKenzie Avenue from it.
“This building’s been sitting for a year, they’ve never mentioned asbestos until they started talking about taking it down, and those signs that say asbestos never went up until two days ago,” Marlow said Wednesday as she looked over at workers in hazmat suits clearing the site. “I think that the City should have known, and they shouldn’t have left it sitting like that if there was a danger.”
Acting Courtenay Mayor Bill Anglin pointed out after the fire there was a lengthy fire investigation, and after that was over, the City tried to get the Nanaimo-based owner to clean the site up — to no avail.
Council declared the site a nuisance in May and gave the owner six weeks (expiring June 30) to clean up the mess.
The job went to public tender as soon as the deadline passed and J.R. Edgett Excavating was awarded the just over $100,000 contract.
But before the contract was awarded, on July 12, the site was inspected for hazardous material so that contractors could properly prepare for the work.
“The plan was in place before they started the process to make sure that any hazardous materials were identified,” said Anglin. “The primary components, certainly that was in there, was asbestos and lead paint, both of which there’s mediation already in place to minimize any impact.”
Meanwhile, Marlow, who has 12 employees, had three take time off for lung-related health issues over the winter.
“I have one that hasn’t been back in about seven months for breathing issues, which she originally did have some breathing issues, but she’s never gone down like this; she hasn’t been able to come back,” explained Marlow. “I’ve got another lady that has to go to the doctor and has to get a scan in September, like in her chest because she has some sort of rattle. And another one that was down for about a week with lung issues.
“It might not have anything to do with it (asbestos in the building) but these people don’t normally get sick.”
The doors to the warehouse area of her business are kept open due to dust from items brought in, and the warehouse sits smack dab across from the part of the dilapidated part of the building flagged for asbestos.
Her partner Steen Kristensen added the close proximity to the site, especially during winter storms concerned him.
“Every time there was a strong wind in the winter time we’d get everything blowing out of there, pieces of roof blowing over,” he recalled.
Marlow also noted people have been going in to check out the empty building since the fire.
“There’s been hundreds of people in there, just a constant stream. Going in checking it out, stripping it, like all different people,” she said.
According to Anglin, dialogue with WorkSafeBC has been ongoing since the City became involved in matter. He added WorkSafeBC could speak further to whether site poses a danger to passersby, but as far as he knows there is no danger.
As for how long remediation of the site will take, Anglin said it will be done as quickly as possible.
The property owner can choose to pay the bill for the work when it’s complete, or it can go onto his property taxes.