Monday 29 January 2018

Duffy probes further on hazardous asbestos dump at Paddington Cemetery

Cllr John Duffy has submitted further evidence to all Brent councillors and Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive Officer in support of his call for an independent investigation.
Dear CEO,

It appears there has been a misrepresentation of facts by Council Officers and leading Councillors concerning the Audit Advisory Committee (AAC) report into the discovery of Asbestos found within Paddington Old Cemetery and the Deltasimon report . The AAC report is a completely different report  which should have investigate how the Asbestos arrived at the cemetery and the report is a restricted report ,which the public are not allowed access to. The Deltasimon report is - an independent report to assess the level of contamination and  this report neither sought or commented on the legality of  council actions to transport contaminated to the cemetery, or the council actions following the discovery of the Asbestos in 2015.

The AAC (in-house ) report, is in my opinion, poor and largely irrelevant because of its failure to interview the work-force (gravediggers /gardeners) most at risk in the situation. The report also failed to seek important relevant documents that are clearly available. However the most glaring deficiency is the fact that the report ends in August 2015 - when the deliberate transportation of the asbestos to Paddington Cemetery by the council took place.  Most of the major issues raised by the Friends of Paddington Old Cemetery (FPC) relate to the contravention of health and safety regulations after the concluding date of the AAC report .  These contraventions took place between 9th May 2017 and 30th November 2017.They were not addressed in the AAC report and have since been ignored by officers and senior councillors since.

The issue the AAC report ignores is, I believe, the most important and fundamental. Namely - did the council put the workforce and residents at unnecessary risk by not implementing basic Health and Safety regulations concerning the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulation (COSHH) following its discovery in Carpenders Park and subsequent transfer to Paddington Old Cemetery.  It is accepted that the Council officers knowingly delivered contaminated waste and instructed the workforce  to undertake over 90 burials in the contaminated  ground. The Deltasimon report contained within it a quote  stating that the contamination was therefore "deemed to pose a significant risk to the Brent council contracted grave diggers". Yet not one Gravediggers /Gardeners who handle the asbestos in Carpenters Park Depot  and worked on the contaminated mound ,were interviewed in the AAC report.

The fact is the AAC report missed information than it gathered,  because it ended in August 2015 and ignores the two incidents most concerning local residents ,FPC and some parents .The incidents I refer to  took place on the 24th June 2017*  and  the 30th November 2017*, after the Asbestos  was discovered on May 9th 2017.

The Perfect Storm
The Council say continually that the Asbestos was low-risk (albeit they did not know that when they delivered it to the cemetery) and assert that the simple presence of asbestos does not represent a risk.  They go on to say a risk is only present if the asbestos is disturbed, at which point fibres become air-borne and can be inhaled.  They also say that the ground is damp and this hinders the process of fibres becoming airborne. This statement is generally true. However, the question at hand concerns the way in which the asbestos was handled/disturbed by the council and the question of whether government COSHH regulations were followed to safeguard the workforce, residents and local school. 

After the discovery of the asbestos on May 9th 2017 the council initially took appropriate steps.  They employed Eton Environmental Group asbestos specialists and a specialist sub contractor to undertake all the reopening burials. They carried out their task in a professional fashion, ensuring the area they were working in was protected from the public and the workforce dressed in protective face masks and disposable overalls. 

However, on June 24th 2017 (6 weeks after the asbestos was discovered) the council again instructed work on the mound and bussed workers in from outside of the cemetery (after - as I understand it - other workers refused to work on the mound).  The new workforce had no knowledge of the asbestos contamination. They also had no training or protective equipment, masks, overalls etc, but were instructed to work at the site. The area was not taped off to prevent members of the public visiting graves there. The workforce set about their tasks, as instructed, raising potentially hazardous dust which put themselves and the public at unnecessary risk.  I attach a photo below taken by a resident on the day which I believe illustrates plumes of hazardous dust and the danger that represents.

The suggestion that the ground was damp enough to hinder the asbestos fibres becoming air-borne is complete nonsense. On June 24th 2017, the temperature was between 30 to 32 °C. Three days earlier, Greater London recorded 34.5 °C - the UK's highest June temperature since 1976. The ground was completely dry. I believe both the workforce and public were put at unnecessary risk by the failure of the council to protect them from the airborne dust created by this work, in what can only be described as the Perfect (Asbestos) Storm. 

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

I fully supported the council in employing the specialist contractors, who are both well known asbestos specialists and understand the COSHH regulations in regard to asbestos. They professionally re-opened the graves for burials on the mound and removed the contaminated waste by wheelbarrow from the mound and placed it to the side of the road by the school garden, where green sheeting was place on it to remove the risk of any asbestos dust being blown into the air. Taping was place around the waste to stop people walking on it.  Which would seem reasonably good practice.

However the employment of the company who removed the contaminated waste was neither efficient or as safe.  It would seem this company was not on the approved list of Brent Contractors; they are not asbestos specialists, just a standard waste management /skip hire company. The operation they undertook certainly does not appear to follow COSHH regulations.  Most importantly, they did not contact the school whose garden is immediately adjacent to ensure that no children went out during the operation.  Nor did they cordon off the surrounding area to ensure members of the public did not enter.

The operation failed to meet even basic standards when dealing with Hazardous/Contaminated waste. The use of the giant mechanical shovel (see attached photo) was completely inappropriate and bound to create plumes of hazardous airborne dust. The area was fully open to public throughout the operation, the waste was then placed in an open lorry rather than a locked skip (which is required in COSHH guidelines), and no protective sheeting was placed on the lorry as it drove off, leaving several pieces of asbestos (see attached photo) scattered along the path.

No new evidence?
At Monday's full council meeting The Mayor refused my request for a debate to appoint an independent investigation.  His decision was supported by Cllr Southwood and Cllr Choudry stating there was no new evidence for any further investigation. This position is untenable. There is ample new evidence that was over looked by the AAC report.  
Since that report, officers have received.
(A) The dates of the incidents on 24th June* and the 30th November* and the location of the incidents.  
(B) evidence that Workers were bussed in and instructed to work and they had no protective clothing. 
(C) photographic evidence of airborne dust plumes and that the fact the area was not taped off from the public. 
(D) photographic evidence showing that the removal of the waste was not carried out within Health and Safety regulations.  
(E) The temperature on that day - showing that there was an increased risk contamination because of the dryness of the ground.  None of this issues were even mentioned in the AAC report.

In light of this, could you please confirm three points:
(1) Could you confirm that the AAC report is a internal restricted report and the public will never be allowed to view or reference that report?
(2) Can you confirm that you are aware the DeltaSimons report states "The Client (Brent Council) as landowner (and potentially as employer) has a duty to manage to ensure exposure is kept as low as reasonably practicable; further, the assessment has identified the potential for exposures to exceed a level at which has been considered in civil litigation as being a material contributor to a case of mesothelioma"?
(3) Can you confirm that since new evidence has now been made known to you - in paragraphs  titled "Perfect Storm" and "Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)” above - you will commission an Independent Investigation into the manner in which the council handled issues following the delivery of the contaminated waste in August 2015 - The independent investigator should have knowledge of Health and Safety regulations (COSHH) and a remit to interview all witnesses. The investigator should be agreed by the leader of the Council  (Cllr Butt ) and  the leader of the opposition(Cllr Warren) and a rep from FPC. 

Finally If you, Cllr Southwood and Cllr Butt continue to impede /refuse an independent investigation, will you please pass on the attached photos to  the Asbestos  consultants Deltasimons and ask them if they believe the actions taken by Brent council on the 24thJune and November 30th 2017 are compatible with the statement in their report highlighted in bold in Question 2. 


Anonymous said...

Power to your elbow Cllr Duffy. Perhaps there is something for the HSE to be looking at here.

Anonymous said...

sure bloody, I cannot believe no one called Environment Agency when it comes to Asbestos removal. How on earth did these contractors get away with this????????

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