How to respond to asbestos soil contamination

Posted on: 4 January 2018

Contact with asbestos can cause serious health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The removal of asbestos from buildings has been industry best practice for many years but dealing with asbestos in the soil is something that has received less attention. Soil contamination has been found to be a particular problem with the increasing development of brownfield sites. Screening for asbestos in the soil is now routine, and there are established procedures for dealing with it when it is found in the soil.

What causes asbestos in the soil?

Before commencing building on brownfield sites you need to be aware of previous activity on the land and the effect that may have had on the ground. Asbestos is frequently found to be a result of lagged ducts or pipes left in the ground when a previous building was demolished, or sub-standard removal of asbestos from a building that has been demolished.

You may think that asbestos is not a concern if your site has not previously been used for building but asbestos in the soil can equally come from former landfill sites that are now being redeveloped, and even from waste which has been dumped illegally.

What's involved in asbestos soil removal?

Before any asbestos can be removed from the land it is important to identify the extent of the contamination. An experienced asbestos surveyor will need to visit the site and conduct a thorough investigation to establish the most effective way for responding to the contamination. By assessing the contaminated site it will be possible determine how much asbestos soil removal is needed and whether site wide remediation work is required.

Should the contaminated soil be removed or retained?

The approach taken to contaminated soil may be impacted by numerous on-site factors including the nature of the asbestos materials, their distribution within the soil, and the nature of the soil itself. Consideration will also need to be given to the proposed use of the site and the attitude taken by the local regulators to asbestos risk.

Whatever decision is taken regarding asbestos soil removal, it is essential to choose properly qualified and experienced professionals to respond to the challenge posed by asbestos contamination. Discovering asbestos in the ground doesn't have to cause a major hold-up in the development of your site. What is important is that the asbestos problem is dealt with properly by someone who understands asbestos management and can take the steps required to mitigate the impact of the discovery.

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