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Consultant's report provides ferry asbestos risk details

Public comments from British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. about asbestos risks on the Queen of Burnaby appear to contradict a recent consultant's report on the problem.

The Tyee yesterday first reported that the cafeteria has been shut on the ferry running between Comox and Powell River because of concerns about exposing passengers and crew to asbestos, a material known to cause cancer.

B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall failed to respond to the Tyee's requests for information yesterday, but she did tell Vancouver radio station News 1130 today, "The air test as well as the solid test has come back but a bit of debris we found has come back negative."

Meanwhile, the Province newspaper's Christina Montgomery obtained a copy of a June 4 asbestos risk assessment report on the vessel by Grant Rogers, the principal and senior occupational hygienist with North West Environmental Group Ltd..

“Results of confirmatory bulk sample testing . . . on a sample collected from the deckhead determined that the debris contains 60 [percent] amosite asbestos,” he wrote. In an area where there is work planned, “Amosite fire proofing spray insulation is embedded within all mastics on bulkheads and deckheads.”

Rogers concluded, “The fact that the material tested positive for such a high concentration of amosite asbestos dictates that, as a precautionary measure, all debris should be considered asbestos containing . . . The loose debris will need to be removed from all surfaces including the top of deckhead tiles.”

Also, “Based on the work procedures described by Westcor staff to be used on this project, the potential for exposure of workers and adjacent personnel to airborne asbestos fibres is high.”

Marshall did not respond to a request for comment today.

The Queen of Burnaby remains in service, though yesterday B.C. Ferries announced food would be unavailable on the vessel. The notice failed to explain why the cafeteria was closed.

The vessel was built in 1965.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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