Brent Council has responded further to Cllr Duffy's queries about the Paddington asbestos issue following the statement made at Monday's Full Council meeting:
The independent testing that was done confirmed that the level of asbestos at the site is below the scientific detection level at 0.001%. This is consistent with background levels for this substance in soil in urban areas. The asbestos that you refer to as having been removed in May was found in a total of 30kg of mixed soil that was taken for testing. This subsequently confirmed the presence of asbestos at that time. It would be very inaccurate and misleading to suggest the low levels that were subsequently recorded over the wider site had been engineered as a consequence of the removal of this 30kg of mixed soil in May.
The extended audit investigation that is underway is seeking to establish the pathway, if any, of the asbestos that has been detected in the soil at trace levels at Paddington Old Cemetery. This will also determine whether there were any operational failings with respect to the transfer of the soil from Carpender’s Park in 2015 and whether that is actually relevant.
Your reference to 60kg of asbestos having been found at Carpender’s Park must again be challenged. A total of 60kg of mixed soil was removed at that time. It was thought the soil might contain a piece of asbestos.
It would also be misleading and potentially very hurtful to suggest that customers have paid £3k to have their relatives buried in builders’ rubble at Paddington Old Cemetery. The re-opening of graves has been undertaken by specialist teams as a precaution until the facts of this matter have been firmly established. We are now clear that the level of asbestos in the soil at the graves is at background levels, similar to that likely to be found in any garden in Brent.
The council has committed to consulting with the school and the workers at the site and to concluding this matter in a measured and transparent way. Further decision making will be based on the facts that have been established and we will seek to implement pragmatic solutions that are agreed with the various stakeholders.
The council has no plans for compensating grave owners. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance which has been detected at the cemetery at levels that are below 0.001%, and which would not draw regulatory sanction or be of any interest to the HSE. Given the concentrations encountered are typical of urban background levels, the council will carefully consider what action is merited in this case and any other cases where the contamination is present at such low concentrations. This will be considered in the context of previous decisions where Local Authorities have, under their statutory powers (Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) determined that other sites including those with much higher concentrations of asbestos do not meet the threshold for definition as Contaminated Land.