Our Lady Help of Christians School Cleanup – Lismore
- Client Christians School
- Location Lismore
- Duration 2 weeks
By Daniel Green
When the floodwaters rose across the Northern Rivers in February 2022 they peaked higher than any time in recorded history. The schools of Lismore suffered particularly harshly, with OLHOC, both St. Joey’s campuses and both Trinity College campuses ravaged by the brown tide. A full two metres higher than 1974, 1954 and 1890 events, hundreds of students and millions of dollars of equipment was displaced and destroyed. And as the muddy waters receded the true toll was unveiled.
Full Remediation and Refurbishment
Virtually every piece of educational equipment was beyond repair. Many buildings would need partial demolition, some would need total. Asbestos that was once undisturbed and largely safe would now need removing. At best the affected schools would need full interior strip outs, rubbish removal, airing out, mould remediation and full refurbishment.
Our Lady Help of Christians [or OLHOC as it is affectionately known] was one such school. It was hit so hard that its future insurability was called into question. Relocation entered the conversation. Students completed assignments and exams in temporary locations. Conditions were undesirable to say the least. Every building was affected.
The devastation and heartbreak threatened to break the small town. What those floodwaters weren’t privy to was the courage and sheer determination of Northern Rivers folk.
So when refurbishment of the exisiting school was approved, works beginning in earnest. And with flood waters having reached the second storey gutters there was much to do. Working with Paynter’s and Perfect Engineer Ondrej Krpalek, Perfect Supervisor Puni Lio formulated a plan to get the campus operational, ASAP.
First was the elephant in the room – the asbestos. Considered fairly safe unless broken down and releasing dust, the non-friable asbestos removal began with a make safe followed by delineating the area. This was to ensure both workers and members of the public would remain unharmed. Perfect hook trucks landed asbestos skips, tools and PPE. With no access to running water, a water cart trailer was towed in. Once these vital steps were achieved Puni and the team were underway, wetting down and removing asbestos sheets by hand. The sheets were loaded into skips and disposed of in accordance with EPA protocol. Air monitoring devices ensured all stray particles were captured.
Demolition and Dismantling
With the asbestos removal phase signed off, other non-hazardous construction materials could be dismantled. Plasterboard linings were stripped off, cement board and other wet area sheet was prised free, fibreglass insulation was collected – all of which was loaded into skips. Metal was segregated and sent for scrap, as were damaged electrical components [where possible]. Tools, clothing, documents were tipped. Almost anything the water touched was deemed unsalvageable.
For the uninitiated, flood waters break traditional segregation lines in that they mix all manner of material – material that really shouldn’t be. The rising waters collect rubbish, sewerage, chemicals, foodstuffs and other potentially hazardous items and spread them across thousands of miles. The result is that anything the water touches is almost certainly contaminated beyond repair. Once Puni and the team had removed the waste, the building was pressure washed to expunge any remaining toxins.
The final phase before handover was mould and mildew remediation. The subtropical climes of the Northern Rivers bring about some magical weather. The same humidity creates mould – especially in buildings that were so thoroughly soaked by flood waters that they took months to dry. Mould and mildew is a live organism that, in rare cases, can cause lasting damage to the lungs. The entirety of all four buildings had to be scrubbed clean to ward off any mould spores.
Two full weeks of work saw the school transformed and handed over to the refurbishment trades. In the coming weeks and months electricians, carpenters, cabinet makers, gas fitters, plumbers and roofers will bring the school back to its former glory or better.
The flood waters came and went, but the Northern Rivers folk remained.
They Got It Done.