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Asbestos ground contamination at new transport interchange

Asbestos ground contamination has been found during the construction of a new transport hub in Bolton. Small amounts of asbestos were discovered in an area which has now been excavated, and the substance safely removed.

It is quite common to find asbestos contamination during this type of construction project – asbestos residue is generally present because of an area’s former industrial or commercial use.

Steps were immediately taken to protect workers on the Bolton site, as well as the general public. This is important considering how quickly, and how far, asbestos dust and fibres can disperse once airborne.

Bolton transport interchange

Transport for Greater Manchester, who are in control of the operation, say that the new Bolton interchange will shorten journey times for commuters and visitors to the area. The project is thought to be costing around £48 million.

There are set procedures which need to be followed whenever asbestos is discovered in these circumstances, however, the first of which is formal identification followed by safe removal. Involvement of licensed contractors is also necessary to carry out the procedure safely.

Specialist tests and safe disposal

Specialist laboratory testing establishes whether or not asbestos has been found, and if tests are positive, specialist contractors licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are generally called in.

In the case of the Bolton interchange, the area was excavated and the asbestos safely disposed of. Peter Boulton, Head of Programme Management Services at Transport for Greater Manchester, commented:

“During redevelopment projects such as this, it is common for contractors to encounter various types of ground contamination, especially when the land has previously been used for industrial or commercial purposes.”

Non-licensed and licensed work with asbestos

Although most handling and removal of asbestos requires a licensed contractor, this depends on the type of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) present. These types of ACM require a licensed contractor’s involvement:

  • Sprayed asbestos coatings: Asbestos coatings can contain up to 85% asbestos which results in high numbers of fibres being released if disturbed. Asbestos coatings are often used for their insulating and fire-proofing properties, for example on roofing sheets, panelling, walls, and steel columns.
  • Asbestos lagging: This is generally found in central heating systems and pipes, and is used for additional insulation.
  • Asbestos Insulating Board: AIB was used as fireproofing for walls, ceilings, lift shafts, soffits, and within fire doors.

Ground contamination is common

When former industrial land is developed into housing or new infrastructure, asbestos is often found within the soil or on the surface. This is unsurprising considering how much asbestos was used several decades ago, and it remains a significant danger to workers to this day.

Asbestos dust and fibres are often left in the soil following demolition of these buildings, and because the fibres are hard to see, they pose a significant risk to people working on the soil or living nearby.