Asbestos in soil

Bore hole drilling for asbestos

Contaminated Soil and Land Remediation

One of our key services offered to our clients is our ‘Asbestos in Soils Programme’ which aims to identify asbestos materials or loose fibres within the built environment at brownfield sites.  The very term asbestos, or asbestos containing materials is still highly emotive and can send waves of panic through a project team. However, the reality is that, in soils, asbestos may represent less of a risk to human health than in building materials, and whilst it would not be acceptable to have asbestos, or asbestos containing materials in topsoil within gardens, asbestos contamination can be managed as part of a development without the wholesale need for excavation and disposal to landfill.

Understanding the Process

The first step in the process of remediation is to understand the risk and determine the extent of the problem. Asbestos is a physical contaminant, i.e. it makes up a component of the soil and does not disperse without physical perturbation. Because asbestos often occurs as small fragments, boreholes or machine to excavated trial pits can be used to investigate the sub surface. This is not as simple as it sounds, as trial pits can leave scarring which may not be desirable at the pre-purchase stage for example. Therefore, the site investigation technique must be determined in the context of the site and advice given accordingly.

It is also very important to specify the correct form of testing and to understand the procedures behind the tests to enable the results to be interpreted.  Once asbestos has been identified in soils, the next step is to determine the amount and hence the likely classification of soils.  This is measured against the ‘hazardous threshold’, (i.e. the threshold at which asbestos containing materials become classed as a hazardous waste) which is currently 0.1%.  If the asbestos content is less than 0.1%, then the soil may be deemed non-hazardous. 

Whilst there may still be a stigma attached to asbestos, provided that the risk is managed, and that information relating to its remediation is presented in a clear and coherent manner, the presence of asbestos beneath a capping layer, or as deeper fill need not prevent sales or discourage potential purchasers.

Through the management of asbestos in soils we have been able to introduce significant cost savings to our clients which could have rendered a development non-viable.  The key to this success has been a realistic assessment of potential risks, combined with significant regulatory and stakeholder consultation and engagement.

For more information please contact us on 0800 458 4136. 

All of our testing is carried out to UKAS standards and in accordance with current CIRIA C733 guidance by industry professionals.

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