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Asbestos find delays church site clean-up

Sydenham church site

The preservation of the Sydenham Heritage Church site faces new delays after asbestos was found in the site rubble.

The heritage stone church, which was built in 1878, was demolished without proper consent two days after the February 2011 earthquake.

The demolition rubble has remained on the site on the corner of Brougham and Colombo streets for over three years while its owner, the Sydenham Heritage Trust, waits on an insurance pay-out.

A recent surface test on the weed-riddled debris detected asbestos, which, if inhaled, can lead to breathing difficulties or lung cancer.

Trust chairwoman Dorothy Haywood said it was unclear whether the asbestos was blown onto the site or was part of the church building.

She said a second test was currently underway to check below the surface of the rubble and on adjacent sites to determine how bad the asbestos was.

Debra Ogier from Harcourts Insulation said because rock was not porous, it would be possible to clean it and re-use it.

She said any material with a high amount of asbestos in it would most likely be dumped at the Kate Valley landfill in Northern Canterbury.

Haywood hoped the level of asbestos was low enough that the stone could be washed in clean water and re-used.

She said despite the hold-ups, the trust was determined to preserve the heritage of the site.

The trust plans to use the rock on the outside of a new community building that would be built where the rubble currently sits.

It wants to make the stone more lightweight by cutting it up to create a veneer on a building frame.

Haywood hoped the site would start to be cleared by Christmas but could not predict the precise timing.

“The ultimate aim is to build a building that reflects the heritage of Sydenham,” she said

_Georgia Weaver for The Mail