Mary & Alec Hepburn
An elderly Newmains couple are facing a third Christmas with their house in turmoil due to cement dust.
Mary and Alec Hepburn, of Dunnoter Walk have been forced to sleep with masks on at night for more than two years after the dust ruined their home.
The private homeowners have been living with a thick layer of dust since it drifted into their home during maintenance work being carried out on their neighbours’ properties in October 2010.
Since then Mary, who has emphysema, has been forced to spend eight months each year living in her caravan in Inverclyde to escape the dust.
She and her husband have now moved into a local hotel after Mary, who was formerly a surgical nurse, was hospitalised with what doctors believed was an environmental complaint.
The couple are now in the process of spending their life savings to replace the carpets, beds, furniture and wallpaper, after several failed attempts at cleaning up the damage.
Alec said: “I estimate this is going to cost us the best part of £15,000 to repair, out of our own pocket.”
Mary, who is 73, has been living in the house for nearly 50 years and has never experienced anything like it.
She remembers coming home and finding her sofas and carpets ruined by inches of dust.
She said: “When we came into the livingroom it was the smell we noticed first.
“It was familiar as my father and brother worked in the building trade. It was the smell of cement.
“The dust was right up the stairs and into the bedrooms.
“I kept washing everything but the dust just came back.”
The dust came into the house through open vents when contractors Eaga, now Carillion, were carrying out maintenance work on behalf on North Lanarkshire Council.
The couple had not received notification that they should close their vents beforehand.
After the dust was reported, the contractors twice visited the property to clean it on behalf of the council, and the couple’s insurers Saga made one attempt, but the dust returned.
While air tests taken at this time showed dust levels did not pose a health hazard, the couple took to sleeping with masks.
They now believe the only solution will be to replace everything in their home.
Mary said: “I had a good life before this.
“While there is life left in my body, I am going to find a way of making sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “We are aware of issues raised by the private homeowners and our contractors have done everything they can to help.”
Paul Green, Director of Communications for Saga, said: “Mrs Hepburn did make a claim through her home insurance with us back in 2011.
“RSA, the underwriters of her insurance policy, arranged for the damaged items to be cleaned and restored to their condition before the incident at a cost of almost £300.”
The couple have also been trying to pursue a claim with Quantum Claims.