Asbestos concerns at new woodland area

A former Mayor of Sleaford has played down concerns that a project to create a woodland area on a disused section of the town cemetery has unearthed potentially harmful asbestos fragments.

Off limits. Town councillors are coming up with a plan after it was discovered the new nature area created from a disused corner of Sleaford cemetery is contaminated with old asbestos particles. EMN-210923-145913001

Coun Anthony Brand was the mayor until May this year and had backed a scheme using up to £5,000 of money from housing developer contributions to landscape the overgrown old brick pit in the corner of the cemetery into an environment area with benches for people to sit and enjoy.

However, at a town council meeting on September 15, members were updated that the contaminated area had been cordoned off since April when the services team leader spotted fragments of asbestos on the surface of the ground.

After taking advice from NKDC’s environmental officer, the fragments were tested at a cost of £1,500, but councillors were told it is likely that the disturbed soil now has asbestos fibres within it. The clerk explained in her report: “The fibres can be disturbed and become air borne (particularly in dry and dusty soil conditions).”

Out of five samples tested, one was revealed to be amosite (‘brown’ asbestos) which was typically used as fire-proofing boarding; the other was concrete or ‘white’ asbestos. The ‘brown’ asbestos is higher risk than the ‘white’ since it is less stable and more likely to leave fibres in the soil.

The clerk said there is no ‘safe’ level of asbestos in soil but the council would be expected to have a clear management plan in place and they would need to test to see if fibres were in the soil too.

After considering three options, the council resolved to spend £4,870.00 plus VAT to call in experts to evaluate the severity of contamination and offer a range of possible management solutions for the site, such as keeping the soil damp to minimise risk from fibres.

However, Coun Brand has pointed out after the meeting that the area as laid out was not designed as a recreation space.

He said: “There is a path which runs around for pedestrians but the area was designated as woodland and we already have a significant stock of saplings provided by the Woodland Trust. In that context the area is still viable for planting and was not designed for public recreation.”