Asbestos can make its way into soil and ground through a variety of different circumstances. These can include fly tipped waste products, the historical use of a site, for example a factory, historic demolition of buildings on site or ineffective remediation solutions or removal works historically on site which may have left the area contaminated.

Asbestos in soils can be found in various forms and quantities, ranging from low concentrations of asbestos fibres being present within a soil sample to visible elements of asbestos including asbestos loose fill insulation, asbestos pipe lagging, asbestos cement or asbestos insulating board (AIB).

These can be present due to the reasons detailed above and are often buried deep in the soil and only uncovered through excavation and ground works. As the asbestos has often been in the soil for a long time, the condition and appearance of it is likely to have drastically deteriorated or changed. 


Surveying and Analysis

Traditional Asbestos Surveys, as defined by HSG264, do not cover the ground contamination

Some development sites will have a ‘Phase 1 Desk Study’ which will contain a conceptual model and the possible risks on the site.

Larger sites are likely to have had a site investigation which will include some contamination testing – including testing for asbestos.

Newly imported materials should be supplied with the appropriate certification.

Additional guidance is available including –

HSE ACOP L143 ‘Working with asbestos containing materials’

Written to cover asbestos in buildings however many of the interpretations and guidance can be applied to soils.

CAR-Soil – CL:aire

Produced by the JIWG and supported by both HSE & EA to interpret current regulations and how they should be applied to soils.

Qualification, Type Determination & Quantification

Traditional building surveys have no requirement to undertake a quantitative assessment for asbestos. The regulations focus on the type of Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) and not the percentage content of asbestos.

In Contaminated Land investigation, there are legal and regulatory implications which must be taken into consideration regarding potential asbestos contamination of soil and made ground.

The most fundamental requirement to consider in relation to occupational exposure and the subsequent determination of the most appropriate course of action (removal, disposal) is the amount of asbestos included in the soil.

To ensure that the potential asbestos in soil is assessed correctly, soil samples must be assessed in a formal tiered process to identify if asbestos is present (qualification), what composition (type determination) and in what quantity (quantification)

Bulk samples – Samples of debris of fragments of asbestos containing materials

Identification – Identifying asbestos fibres within a soil sample

Product Type – If possible identifying the source product type of ACMQuantification – Quantifying the amount of asbestos fibres within a sample to try and establish the risk of fibre release/exposure from the material.

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