What to do with asbestos-contaminated soil

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The dangers of asbestos are well known and, across the country, business and homeowners are acting to have asbestos removed from roofs, gutters and walls. But one possible source of asbestos contamination that is often overlooked is asbestos in the soil.

Should I be concerned about asbestos in my soil?

Unfortunately, Australia's problem with asbestos has not gone away. Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials can be found on land dedicated to a range of commercial and residential purposes. Asbestos contains tiny fibres, and when a material containing asbestos is broken, such as a fibro panel often seen in older style houses, these fibres can become airborne. When inhaled into the lungs, these tiny fibres can lead to deadly mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Just as asbestos fibres pose a health risk when they are released from building materials, asbestos fibres in the soil can also cause very ill health effects when they are released into the air. The risks posed by asbestos-contaminated soil vary depending on the percentage of asbestos in the soil and the possibilities of it being disturbed.

How does asbestos get into the soil?

Asbestos can make its way into the soil in a number of ways, commonly:

  • A building containing asbestos previously existed on the site and wasn't disposed of carefully.

  • Soil containing asbestos was transported to the land from another site to be used as topsoil.

How can I tell if there is asbestos in my soil?

The safest way to determine whether your soil is contaminated by asbestos is to have a qualified asbestos soil removal company inspect the site. They may consider:

  • The history of the site.

  • The likely breadth and depth of the contamination.

  • The types of asbestos-containing materials that may be present in the soil.

What can I do if asbestos is present in my soil?

A licensed asbestos soil remover is qualified to remove the asbestos-contaminated soil safely. After an inspection of the soil the removal company may take the following steps, depending on the extent of the contamination:

  • Dampen the soil to stop asbestos fibres escaping into the air.

  • Use heavy equipment such as an excavator to dig up the soil.

  • Package the soil in a container clearly marked as containing asbestos.

  • Move the soil to a vehicle dedicated to asbestos transportation.

  • Transport the soil to a facility licensed to accept asbestos waste.

Asbestos soil removal is a highly specialised process and one best left to the professionals.