Stallholders at the Kingston Old Bus Depot Markets will be reimbursed for some of their items affected by lead dust found at the facility, but the market’s reopening date remains uncertain.
Further tests will be undertaken to assess the levels of lead dust contamination after the current cleaning processes. If all goes well, work is expected to be completed around July, Arts Minister Tara Cheyne said.
The market’s reopening was delayed by a minimum of three months in February when stallholders and the public were notified about the dust from lead paint. The reopening date was then pushed back until mid-May at the earliest.
None of the 28 workers at the markets were found to have lead levels above the safe threshold after being tested when the dust was discovered.
The depot was first used in the 1920s and the current frame was built in the 1940s. With paint containing up to 50 per cent lead before 1965 and up to 1 per cent from 1992, it is likely there has been lead paint in the Old Bus Depot for decades, Ms Cheyne said.
It may also have been contaminated by lead petrol fumes due to its role as a bus depot.
However, it was unlikely to have posed a risk to the public if the lead dust remained undisturbed. Ms Cheyne said the dust was disturbed during the remediation works on the roof that commenced last June.
The lead dust was found in January and an environmental expert conducted an assessment on 1 February.
Ms Cheyne confirmed that cleaning and remediation work at the depot had started in April.
“We acknowledge that the uncertainty in timeframes has been difficult for the operators of the markets and for stallholders,” Ms Cheyne told the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (2 June).
“This is particularly the case for stallholders whose stock or equipment has been stored in the building and may be impacted by lead dust disturbed in the recent works.
“But it is also the case for stallholders whose business has been interrupted for longer than planned and whose customers have been waiting to get back to the shopping they love.”
While the government is trying to clean and recover as many items as possible, Ms Cheyne acknowledged that some items would need to be disposed of due to contamination, including children’s products, fabrics, food products, food and drink preparation items and catering equipment like fridges.
The Old Bus Depot suffered major damage from the January 2020 hail storm and was then forced to close less than two months later in March 2020 due to COVID-19.