Residents finally return home to Victoria, B.C. tower evacuated over asbestos fears

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Residents finally return home to Victoria, B.C. tower evacuated over asbestos fears

Residents finally returned to their homes in a Victoria, B.C. apartment tower on Thursday after it was evacuated at the end of January over fears of asbestos contamination.

Tenants of the building at 435 Michigan Street raised concerns after WorkSafeBC issued a stop work order at the apartment tower next door due to concerns that renovations had disturbed asbestos.

Some tenants feared they could also be at risk of exposure. Their building is owned by the same company and was undergoing similar renovations.

The concerns prompted the building owner to move the residents of 435 Michigan to a nearby hotel at the end of January while tests were conducted.

Liam Bigelow is one of the people who moved home Thursday afternoon. He says he's happy to return, but still has some reservations. 

"The only concern I have is that they aren't releasing the test results for the rooms below the seventh floor, and I'm on the sixth floor," says Bigelow.

"I'm a little concerned about the dust that was in my room because I had an extraordinary amount compared to my friend who lived on the fifth."

A letter from Island Health indicates that because the lower floors were cleaned before testing, further tests were only done on the upper floors. 

Late Wednesday afternoon, building owner Starlight Investments received approval from the Vancouver Island Health Authority and WorkSafe BC to allow tenants to return to their suites.

Danny Roth speaks for Starlight and for building manager, Devon Properties. He says the tests show it's safe for tenants to return home. 

"There are no actions still to come related to the dust, the asbestos dust and positive air quality sampling. All of that is behind us," says Roth. 

The renovations that triggered the asbestos scare are still not finished, and Roth says they won't resume right away.

Meanwhile, a WorkSafe follow-up inspection dated March 7, 2017 says a written confirmation of compliance is still outstanding for the building. 

According to the inspection report the violation stems from Starlight Investments employing multiple contractors on site.

The report notes "the owner, has not been effectively coordinating work activities between employers" to ensure compliance with the initial stop work order that was issued in December

Starlight Investments has until March 17 to provide its written confirmation of compliance. 

Correction : An earlier version of this story stated a stop work order had been issued for 435 Michigan Street. In fact, a stop work order had been issued for the building next door.(Mar 10, 2017 3:19 PM)