Corrosive dust has Eden residents worried, angry over council response to damage

Eden resident Malcolm Terry said professional detailers won't provide a quote to clean and fix his car as they can't guarantee to successfully repair damage.
Eden resident Malcolm Terry said professional detailers won't provide a quote to clean and fix his car as they can't guarantee to successfully repair damage.

Damage to properties from lime dust reportedly used during a recent road upgrade in Eden has angered residents, who say Bega Valley Shire Council is refusing to accept liability on the matter.

Residents said work was undertaken from June 10-11 on Mitchell and Calle Calle Streets, but extensive damage to houses and vehicles has become more and more evident since, causing worry the residue will continue to degrade surfaces unless properly removed.

The residents also hold concerns for potential health risks from initial exposure to the dust, direct contact with affected surfaces and via water tanks off roofs.

However, those affected residents claim the council is not accepting any liability for the damage, instead putting the fault at the feet of the roadworks contractor.

Andrew Grant said what he understood to be lime dust, which settled everywhere on his property, can slowly eat through metal.

"It has a pH of about 12.4 - it's like having acid having poured on the cars and roofs.

"We're concerned it will continue to cause damage over time if it's not neutralised or properly washed off the roof, but we have no idea how to do this.

"We have had quotes to clean the cars after council advised us to get them, which amounted to over $600 - mine is a brand new car purchased this year and the paint is going to be ruined.

Some residents said the paintwork on their cars now feels like sandpaper.

Some residents said the paintwork on their cars now feels like sandpaper.

"There was white dusting all over it, the lime has run down and re-solidified in the door handles, the duco now feels like sandpaper," he said.

Many residents sought legal advice and some have been contacted by a lawyer who handles class action lawsuits.

"Council oversaw the project and ultimately they're responsible, even if a contractor did the actual work," Mr Grant said.

In response to ACM over these claims, BVSC indicated it was working "with a small number of affected residents to have a professional contractor engaged to carry out requested cleaning work".

"Additionally, council is progressing this as an insurance matter which is being managed by its insurer, StateWide mutual.

"Council is responding to individual householders regarding their individual circumstances."

Malcolm Terry is a retired plumber who says his roof, solar panels and boat have been badly affected.

He was at home when the roadworks were underway and said when the dust came down "it was wet like rain, it was burning our faces and skin".

"No-one was notified or given an opportunity to protect their properties or cars, and nobody is taking the blame," Mr Terry said.

"It looked like someone had poured white paint over my solar panels, they have since stopped charging the battery properly - every time it rains you think it's gone but as the car and roof warm up it appears white again, it's eaten through the coating, the more you wash it the worse it gets.

"I've tried multiple cleaning agents and there has been a small improvement but the damage is still visible, the whole Colorbond roof has gone dull and it's still white when you run your hands over it - it needs to be neutralised somehow.

"What's going to happen in six months' time when our roofs disintegrate?"

Mr Terry said the quote he received for cleaning his car was nearly $600.

"I'm on a pension and can't afford to pay the insurance excess.

"I was driving the other day and the rubber tore out of the windscreen wiper arms because it's pitted into the windscreen as well as the windows and headlights."

According to Mr Terry, BVSC initially told him to take photos of the damage and offered to wash his roof off as "gesture of goodwill", but now say it is not liable.

"I climbed up on the roof after it rained - I came down with white hands and knees, every time it gets damp it starts eating in again... it's been over a month now, it's just ridiculous and the longer they leave it the worse it's going to be."

Residents believe the residue needs to be neutralised somehow in order to stop further degradation of the materials.

Residents believe the residue needs to be neutralised somehow in order to stop further degradation of the materials.

Mr Terry said BVSC gave him a Deed of Release when they offered to clean the roof, which states work undertaken to clean the roof would be done "on a without admission of liability basis" and "when signed by the claimant, will completely prevent the claimant from taking any future actions against BVSC".

"As far as I'm concerned, whoever contracts the contractor is responsible... unfortunately a class action may be the only way to go if this isn't handled properly."

Resident Nick Dunne was sent the same document and was advised by a solicitor not to sign it.

"I've got a new house in Calle Calle Street - the roof is covered in lime, all our decks, we've got a motorbike and trailer, car, spa cover, it's stained paintwork on the side of the house, the bins, our whole block is covered in lime," Mr Dunne said.

"I have used high pressure water to try and clean it - the only thing that seems to work is acid which seems to get it off timber - but this doesn't do the fixtures or nails any good.

"I have been trying to contact council from day dot - they say they'll get back to you but don't. We emailed a letter stating what's happened and the damages and had no response, kept calling them and they finally acknowledged they'd received the email.

"BVSC say they are not liable and that the contractor is at fault - we are trying to pursue facts on how corrosive it is to the materials and how to actually remove it, perhaps an industrial chemist? I really don't know.

"It's run off into our water tank, I had to bypass the tank because after a heavy dew the next morning, the lime has gone straight into the water supply."

BVSC said while "it was initially difficult to source a suitably qualified contractor" for the cleaning efforts, it anticipated work would start next week.