Monday 5 February 2018

Cllr Duffy returns with further comments on the Cemetery asbestos issue

Ahead of tomorrow's meeting about the Paddington Cemetery asbestos issue (7pm at Kilburn Housing Co-operative, Kilburn Square, Victoria Road, Kilburn, NW6 6PT.) there has been further correspondence between Cllr John Duffy and Brent Council.

John Duffy's email is published below:

Thank you for  your email, however I have some serious concerns about  some of its content.. 

 Firstly you say in your email the council has been open, transparent and public and worker safety focussed throughout this matter. Any examination of the fact show the opposite is true. The council decision to take the  report to an audit committee , where the public and press were banned  cannot be considered  public , open or  transparent . To stop  a democratically elected councillor from having a copy of  the  Audit Advisory committee Report (AAC)  before the meeting  and only  allowing  him  to view  the report in front of two bodyguards cannot by any stretch of the imagination be consider open, transparent and public.

Neither does the decision of the council Audit Investigator not to interview the workforce  who were mostly exposed to the asbestos suggest to me you were focus on worker safety. The neglect of the workforce is also borne out  by the council  decision not  to suspend all work  on the mound while awaiting asbestos analyst .

The decision to bus in workers to carry out work on the mound , without protective clothing  on June 24th 2017 was reckless. The council must be aware  the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012  set minimum standards for the protection of employees from risks related to exposure to asbestos. Employers should also take account of people not directly employed by them but who could be affected by the work being done on asbestos including employees of other employers, people occupying buildings, members of the public etc.

The main issue has always been how did the asbestos get to Paddington Cemetery .We known there were three " finds "of Asbestos one in August  2015 in Carpenders Park. This was found while preparing a load  to infill section 3D which  is an area on the mound  in Paddington Cemetery .The Asbestos was separately bagged and sent to West London waste Authority.(WLWA) .The waste was classified as Hazardous waste and weighted 60 kgs .The council officer ,who had attend asbestos awareness courses confirmed in the AAC report that  he believe the" find " was  asbestos cement.. However you in your latest email have  change that account. You are now saying that it  just was a (one) small plate  made of asbestos in among the 60 kgs. As you kno  I used to be Head of Environmental Enforcement for Westminster City council  and I have always found a change in narrative concerning. However Iam  hoping you will explain  how bags filled with Asbestos cement , can suddenly become a  small asbestos  plate ? In my role Head of Enforcement I have  always believe  that  stories can change  but the facts remain the same. The fact is on the 15th August 2015  the council sent 60 kgs of  waste  which found in a load bound for Section 3D in Paddington Cemetery  to WLWA for deposal and it was all classified as "hazardous Waste" with or without the "small asbestos plate".

The next position of the council is in my mind completely untenable,  Your  email says the council removed the original 60 kgs of contaminated soil in 2015 . The council sent completely different waste to Paddington cemetery shortly after  from a random spoil from previous dug graves within Carpenders Park. The load was sent to  backfill 3D in Paddington Cemetery .The chances of two  random unrelated loads both being contaminated ,can mean one of two things  either Carpenders Park is contaminated throughout  which is very serious or the council failed to screen the 2nd  load properly believing they had  remove  all the Asbestos  before sending it to Paddington Cemetery.

The second "Find” of Asbestos was located  in section 3D on the May 9th 2017 .The find was made after grave diggers were preparing  for a burial .I understand well over a hundred pieces of asbestos were found  and these were found all the way down the dig .The pieces of asbestos  were not as you suggested just at the level of 6 or 7 feet some of it was near or on the surface .The spoil transported to Paddington cemetery in 2015 was used to backfill a hole that had appear after the removal of a very large tree and its roots. The pour of the waste did go to 6 or 7 ft  as the level of the  removed roots were that deep. Your assertion that  because the level where some the asbestos was found , makes the asbestos pre-2010  has no evidence to support that view.

On the 19th May  the third "find "was also found in section 3D again on or just below the surface. Nothing concerning this find  or the find that took place previously was mentioned or highlighted in the councils AAC.

On July17 2017 you sent me an email (see below) ) following an enquiry I made on behalf of a residents  it said.

Dear Cllr Duffy,

I understand a small number of pieces of asbestos have been dug up alongside bricks and other building materials during  a grave excavation in the mounded area at the rear of Paddington Cemetery.

These are small items, and tests have shown them to be a low-risk type asbestos. Also, of course, they’ve been buried and are therefore damp so pose no risk of particles being released. 

They will be disposed of in the appropriate manner

We’re working with Veolia and our in-house H&S team to establish the extent of the problem and, while we do that, we’re not burying there. As far as I’m aware though, there is absolutely no risk to the public here.

This email is misleading there was not a small number of pieces as you described, there were over a hundred pieces of  asbestos found and many of them were large ,will you confirm the number as I believe your reply to me underplayed the size of the asbestos find. Also the  test  you mentioned that you say "showed  low risk type  asbestos", has never  been published .Just to clarify  I am requesting the release of the test results that were carried out  on the asbestos found on the 9th May mentioned in your email along with the consignment notes for the asbestos found on 9th May and 19th May 2017, and the size of both those finds.....Hopefully the quick release of this information will lead to Brent residents having a complete picture. 

As you are aware Eaton Environmental group showed of the 60 pilot holds drilled (after the removal of the over one hundred pieces of asbestos) 28%  were still found to have  asbestos trace and  just under 25% of them including one sample which states " several large chunks of cement "were of "high content". i believe this is being underplayed by officers. Also neither the Eaton or Deltasimmon report consider the tests results  you mention in your email , therefore both the consultants conclusions are flawed as they do not consider the asbestos  from "finds" two and three in their overall results. I believe without those test results , Grave-owners , residents and parents will be unable to make up there own mind on past and future risk.

The other point of most  concern is the  storage of the contaminated waste on the footpath outside  the Green-space .I witnessed over many weeks that the asbestos was clearly visible. I wrote to you in early in December 2017 that were not following the basic Health and safety regulations  on the removal of Asbestos. Most importantly, the Council  did not  carry out the basic courtesy of  alerting  the school whose garden is immediately adjacent to ensure that no children went out  into the Green-space during the operation.  Nor did the Council cordon off the surrounding area to ensure members of the public did not enter.The use of the giant mechanical shovel on a open back lorry  was completely inappropriate and bound to create plumes of hazardous airborne dust. The waste was then placed in an open lorry rather than a locked skip (which is required under COSHH )  which would  ensure  the journey of the hazardous waste would be registered and the load could not be neither tampered  with or mixed with other waste. No protective sheeting was placed on the lorry as it drove off, leaving several pieces of asbestos (see photos on the Perfect storm email) scattered along the path. 

Albeit you were sent photographic evidence  of the waste being loaded into a open back lorry, you seemingly just ignored this  and on the 9th December you sent me another email.

Dear Cllr Duffy,

The contractors have advised the sealed container is still in the depot awaiting a date and time slot for it to be taken for final disposal/treatment in Swindon.
Apparently, there is a booking system rather than a ‘just turn up’ system.
We will advise as soon as we have further information.

Kind regards,

There was no sealed container as the photographs in the perfect storm email confirms. The lorry when to yard and  was off-loaded onto the floor. It is because of Brent  Council’s unwillingness to follow COSHH guidelines and ensure the waste was collect in  locked skip  no one will be able to guarantee the integrity of the load collected from outside the green-space for testing.

I understand from the Head of Finance  that the councils Audit officer  ,who  himself recognises he is not an H+S expert. He will now interview the staff. This again is just an attempt  to ensure the investigation is not open or transparent .It was only a few months ago the audit officer believed these people who were most exposed to asbestos were not  worth talking  to ,he also did not seek out important consignment notes to ensure the committee had all the facts  and the public have all the facts. Of course once he has investigate the decision will go back to the Audit Advisory Committee  and the press and public will once again be excluded  from the meeting .It will be the same result. Brent council will mark it own homework without any scrutiny from the public.

I believe the council lack of openness has caused considerable anxiety to many local residents not just about their health and well-being, it also brings alarm that a big juggernaut like Brent Council can continue to ignore them and hide behind locked doors in the Civic Centre and they are helpless to do anything about it. I am still hoping  the council will announce an independent investigation today (Monday ) prior to Tuesday meeting , which I believe the local residents will welcome and  will lead to a calm and sensible conclusion  that will be in the public interest ..

You mention the affect on some staff which are employed by Brent, which I really do consider. You can rest assured I am not motivated to get anyone disciplined. I believe you can see from my defence of the workers in the graveyard rights to be heard, because  that  I am not that kind of person . However I believe there are lessons to be learn be it extra  H+ S  and  COSHH training , changes in protocol , better contract management , better reporting systems or other solutions…...Mistakes can be made but they  can  be rectified , but they should'nt be hidden  behind secret meetings that excluded the press and public.

As I say I will be at the Civil Centre today ( Monday approx. 1pm), where hopefully  you will be able to give me the test results you mentioned  in your email and the consignment notes, which were all missing from the AAC report, so they can be studied  before Tuesday’s meeting .

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