Calderwood asbestos debacle: owners may launch class action

Costly delay: Concerned Calderwood property buyers look over their land. Picture: ROBERT PEET.
Costly delay: Concerned Calderwood property buyers look over their land. Picture: ROBERT PEET.

Angry property buyers at Calderwood are threatening legal action over asbestos contamination which is delaying settlement and risking them thousands of dollars.

One owner said she faced a $15,000 penalty because the builder would start late.

Aggregate: The section of Calderwood which contains the contaminated material. Picture: ROBERT PEET.

Aggregate: The section of Calderwood which contains the contaminated material. Picture: ROBERT PEET.

They found out last week that a contractor had used contaminated fill in the 500-site Stage 2 of the Lend Lease development.

But one worker told the Mercury he and others had noticed asbestos – and reported it – months ago.

Buyers have been venting their anger on social media and are threatening class action legal proceedings.

Property buyer David Rozadilla said it took too long for the developer to act.

“I read some of the comments that some of the workers told them about it months ago, but they were told to carry on,” he said.

Another purchaser had been renting since selling her house in Unanderra and entering into a contract at Calderwood, so extra months cost her more.

“It’s stressful,” she said.

“In this day and age I just can’t believe they would use a company that didn’t get it right.”

The Environment Protection Authority has ordered Kembla Grange company Wollongong Recycling – owned by waste giant Bingo – to clean up the contaminated material it supplied.

Containment: Contaminated aggregate can be seen coming out from under the plastic sheeting. Picture: DAVID ROZADILLA.

Containment: Contaminated aggregate can be seen coming out from under the plastic sheeting. Picture: DAVID ROZADILLA.

Bingo bought Wollongong recycling from Helensburgh’s Blackwell family in May. Bingo sales and marketing manager Hadi Haddad said the issue dated from shortly after the purchase.

He said Bingo had “the highest standards of sustainability” and operations.

“Bingo continues to integrate these facilities including implementing these operating procedures,” he said.

“Bingo has increased the level of site-specific training of staff on its systems and licensing obligations, is conducting weekly audits and has increased the level of on-site signage.”

Of 7,500 tonnes of suspected asbestos contaminated material from Wollongong Recycling, 3,300 tonnes went to Calderwood, the EPA said.

Asked if Lend Lease would compensate buyers, a spokeswoman said off-the-plan purchases had risks and financial benefits. “Like with all investments, buyers need to be aware of the risks,” she said. “The main risk in buying off-the-plan is that there could be delays due to planning approvals or other unforeseen circumstances during construction.”