Article by Alex Collman - Soilex Environmental Ltd - everything you need to know about Asbestos contaminated soil and management of it's safe disposal.
While the use of any asbestos product was banned in the UK in 1999, it was so prevalent as a building material before it was outlawed that it is still found in many buildings today.
Those in the construction industry will know that asbestos is not only found in existing buildings that may need demolishing but within the made ground and soils across a site.
Prior to any asbestos regulations being in place, asbestos would have been crushed along with all other demolition waste to produce a recycled aggregate, with off-cuts thrown to the ground during construction on site. Years later, as these sites are developed, it is no wonder that fibres and fragments are often identified in site investigations on brownfield developments.
So what should developers and contractors do to ensure the safe and compliant handling of asbestos-contaminated soil and other wastes? And what options do they have to reduce the — often excessive — costs of this removal?
Handling asbestos: best-practice disposal management
If you have come across a site impacted by asbestos, these are the steps you’ll need to take to be both fully compliant and cost-effective:
Review legislation and industry guidance
First and foremost, the contractor needs to determine if the work required is considered “licensed” according to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
Whether it is or isn’t, will come down to the type and form of asbestos — as well as the nature of the work and potential exposure. CL:AIRE’s industry guidance and interpretation (CAR-SOIL) on the 2012 asbestos regulations is a good reference for any contractor unsure of their responsibilities.
Perform a risk assessment
A risk assessment and remediation method statement will determine how to deal with any site impacted by asbestos, revealing opportunities for safe asbestos-contaminated soil removal.
Often, with the risks assessed and the right compliance measures in place, there are ways to retain the impacted waste on-site — encapsulating them under buildings or in hard landscaped areas, so as to remove the risk of fibre dispersion.
However this isn’t always feasible (or desirable), and the waste will need to leave the site. At this point, you’ll need to determine the waste classification.
Determine whether your soil or other waste, is deemed hazardous — and choose a disposal method
Waste Classification Technical Guidance WM3 clearly outlines when waste containing asbestos should be classified as “hazardous”.
To save you reviewing the guidance yourself, here’s a quick overview:
- Soil or waste is hazardous if there are free and dispersed fibres that represent ≥0.1% of the waste as a whole
- Or if identifiable fragments of asbestos are present and the concentration of asbestos within those fragments is greater than 0.1%
Unfortunately, where C&D waste or soils contain a hazardous quantity of dispersed fibres, there is little option but to consign the waste to landfill. Treatment, either on-site or off-site, is not feasible given the microscopic nature of the contaminant.
The good news is, very rarely are free fibres so prevalent that the waste is considered hazardous. After all, a full lorry load of soil would need circa. 20kg of fibres to be considered hazardous — and that’s a lot of fibres! Non-hazardous waste can be disposed of at a licensed landfill facility.
But when fragments are present — this often poses a huge financial burden on a project. On-site and off-site treatment options are available that remove the need to landfill the waste (and the associated tax liability of nearly £100 per tonne).
Exploring your options with a waste management partner can identify significant savings and reduce waste production while making sure all actions are fully health and safety compliant and in line with current regulations.
Asbestos contaminated soil identification and removal isn’t easy — mistakes can be costly not just for the business, but for the wellbeing of workers and those living near the site. But you don’t need to go it alone. Touch base with SoilEx today.
About the author
Alex Collman MCIWM CRWM
Alex is the founder and Managing Director of SoilEx Environmental, a business that provides waste management support and services to the construction industry. Following nearly as decade heading up the waste division of a national aggregate and waste broker Alex realised there was a significant knowledge gap in the construction industry. Contractors who have the responsibility of managing excavated waste often take an overly cautious approach, or inadvertently mis-mang their waste, either having significant environmental and commercial consequences. SoilEx fills that knowledge gap, ensuring their clients manage their waste as effectively as possible whilst remaining compliant in the process.
To date they have worked with developers, Tier 1’s, demolition and groundwork sub-contractors nationally, reducing waste, increasing re-use and finding significant cost savings in the process.
Alex’s passion is for SoilEx to provide a truly unique service to its clients that focuses on improved knowledge, processes and techniques to improve the industries management of its excavated wastes.
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