Demolition halted

Company tearing down former superette failed to follow asbestos removal procedures

Terry Roberts editor@cbncompass.ca
Published on March 4, 2010
A pile of rubble is all that remains of Green's Superette on Mayor Avenue in St. John's. Further work on the site has been halted by Occupational Health and Safety officials over concerns with asbestos removal. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

A demolition project at the corner of Mayor Avenue and Howley Avenue Extension in St. John's has once again been shut down by the province.

But the stop-work order is not related to an incident that took place at the site of the former Green's Superette on Monday, in which a portion of the building's roof and a cinder block wall fell onto several neighbouring properties, resulting in damage to two garden sheds and some fencing.

A demolition project at the corner of Mayor Avenue and Howley Avenue Extension in St. John's has once again been shut down by the province.

But the stop-work order is not related to an incident that took place at the site of the former Green's Superette on Monday, in which a portion of the building's roof and a cinder block wall fell onto several neighbouring properties, resulting in damage to two garden sheds and some fencing.

"We issued the stop-work order because they were not following asbestos removal procedures," said a spokesperson for the occupational health and safety branch of the Department of Government Services.

Deer Park Contracting of Holyrood began demolishing the landmark building in the centre of the city late last year, and plans to construct a five-unit residential complex on the site.

But work was halted after asbestos was discovered.

Company owner Tony Lockyer said the original stop-work order was lifted a couple of weeks ago after an environmental engineering company was brought onboard.

Lockyer blamed the company he sub-contracted to tear down the building for violating the asbestos abatement regulations, which fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

"The excavator operator jumped the gun and didn't put the procedures in place he was supposed to with handling asbestos," Lockyer said.

Lockyer said he has been tending to an important family matter, which took him away from work for the last several days.

"I've been distracted. Other than that, we would be back on site today tearing it down," he added.

He said every effort will be made to stay within the regulations, and he expects work to resume very soon.

As for the damage to neighbouring properties, Lockyer promised to take care of it.

Taking matter seriously

"Obviously we're good corporate citizens and we take this very seriously. We're going to make sure that any damage to their property will be taken care of," he said.

Lockyer said the demolition was complicated by the tight quarters under which the excavator was working.

He said the properties are separated by inches, and the 25-foot high cinder block wall fell awkwardly.

He said the operator checked to make sure no one was in the area.

"It's hard to control a debris field like that when you're in such close quarters," he said.

Property owners in the area say they are happy to see the derelict building coming down, since it had become a hangout for young people and a fire hazard. Those affected by Monday's mishap say they also expect to be fully compensated for the damage to their properties.

"I'm not angry, but someone will have to fix it to my satisfaction. There's no sense getting angry," said one resident, who asked not to be named. A garden shed in the man's backyard was damaged by falling debris.

troberts@thetelegram.com