Asbestos in Soil Testing


Asbestos in Soils Testing and Inspection

Lucion Infrastructure utilises the UK’s largest asbestos testing and inspection facility. Our in-house laboratory is UKAS ISO 17025 accredited for asbestos in soil identification, analysis, and quantification using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).

What is contaminated land?

Asbestos and other hazardous materials can find its way into made ground and soils in many different circumstances. These include the historic demolition of buildings containing ACMs, fly-tipped waste, the nature of the business that may have previously occupied a site and previously ineffective remediation of areas that may have been suspected as being contaminated.

Asbestos in soil may be found in various forms such as loose fill, insulation, lagging, asbestos insulating board (AIB), cement etc and in some cases asbestos fibres may not visible to the naked eye but can still pose a risk to individuals in the surrounding area and can be transferred if left untreated.

Why should made ground and soils be tested for contamination?

Asbestos in made ground and soils is predominantly immobile, although when contaminated ground soil is disturbed, fibres are more likely to be released and pose a risk to both individuals and the environment.

In traditional building surveys, there is no requirement to undertake a quantitative assessment for asbestos, with regulations instead focusing on the type of Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) in use rather than the percentage content of asbestos.

However, for those involved in contaminated land projects, there are many legal and regulatory obligations that need to be considered in relation to the potential asbestos contamination of soils and made ground. Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: Interpretation for Managing and Working with Asbestos in Soil and Construction & Demolition materials: Industry Guidance (also known as CAR-SOIL) requires employers to assess any potential exposure to asbestos faced by employees. Environment Agency regulations require the quantification of asbestos in soils is determined so that an assessment can be made in relation to hazardous waste handling arrangements and human health risk assessments.

Quantitative measurement of any asbestos included in the soil is a fundamental requirement in relation to occupational exposure and the subsequent determination of the most appropriate removal, disposal or soil re-use arrangements. Many scientific studies have been used to link the quantity of any asbestos present in made ground or soil is a potential risk of allowing airborne fibres to be released during disturbance work, potentially putting both individuals and the environment at risk.

How can exposure to airborne asbestos fibres from made ground and soils be prevented?

To meet all regulatory requirements, and to ensure that the potential presence of asbestos in soils is assessed in the required manner, soil samples need to be assessed in a formal tiered process to identify if asbestos is present (qualification), in what composition (type determination) and in what quantity (quantification).

The thorough analysis of soil provides the accurate quantification of any asbestos fibres present as a percentage of the overall mass. This, in turn, can be equated to the occupational risk and the practices associated with its removal and disposal or re-use.

How can Lucion help you to protect individuals and achieve compliance?

Working with the Construction Industry Research and Information Industry Association (CIRIA), we have supported the development of new and practical interactive tools to help groundworkers and other construction site workers manage asbestos-contaminated materials on site.

Our experiences working with CIRIA and achieving UKAS accreditation for Soil Sampling and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) analysis means our environmental consultants can offer a range of contaminated land services, tailored to provide a solution that will help deal with the most complex scenarios in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Our range of services include:

  • Asbestos in soils and contaminated land surveying and analysis
  • Environmental site audits
  • Site investigation specifications
  • Factual or interpretative reporting
  • Remediation management
  • Exposure Assessments

What are my responsibilities?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations(2012) requires sufficient recorded information to prevent exposures to asbestos. 

Recently duty holders, landowners, and developers have been found liable for claims, despite compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and planning requirements. In order to avoid liability, it is imperative that potential risks from asbestos-containing soils during all redevelopment is mitigated.

Our team of Environmental Consultants can help you mitigate the risks of hazardous contaminated land. Working alongside our team of specialist hazardous material surveyors we are able to ensure a best practice approach, from the initial site review and desktop study, through to intrusive site investigation and site remediation.

Get in touch with our team today: Contact Us

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Why is the quantitative analysis of soil samples important?

How are soil samples assessed and analysed?

The procedures for soil sampling and analysis are detailed in industry-led guidance. Trial pit and borehole sampling are carried out through the made ground layer on a site or land area and 1 kg (approx 1 litre) of soil is sampled. Careful attention is applied throughout the sample collection and handling in the laboratory to avoid any spread of potential contamination. Trial pits and borehole locations in the site under review are properly reinstated.

This original soil sample is sub-sampled and screened for visible asbestos products, in the laboratory, which if present are weighed and analysed. A subsample is further analysed for asbestos fibres and these are separated and weighed. Measured weights are then scaled back up to represent the whole sample and an overall percentage asbestos content is determined.

On those occasions where asbestos products or fibres are not detected, and subject to a client’s request, further sedimentation analysis can be carried out. This involves a sample of soil being dissolved in water and an aliquot is then passed through a filter. The filter is then analysed using SEM and EDS. If fibres are found, the quantities are measured and scaled up to the original mass and a total asbestos percentage content is reported.

What are the implications of being UKAS accredited for this service?

UKAS accreditation confirms that all procedures, equipment, staff competencies and reporting practices used in the laboratory meet the requirements of the ISO 17025 standard.

Approval is only awarded after a rigorous audit and inspection process is carried out to ensure that the relevant sampling and analysis procedures are in place, that laboratory professionals are properly qualified and trained to carry out the work expected of them and that reporting and documentation are also in line with the required formats.?

In addition, in Lucion’s case, separate UKAS accreditation has been gained for the use of SEM microscopy for the identification of very low quantities of asbestos fibres in soils.

As well as laboratory services, at the sampling stage, Lucion can also call on specialist in-house expertise for site investigation.

Lucion’s extended sampling and analytical capability mean clients can benefit from higher limits of asbestos detection, providing greater levels of reassurance and confidence in the correct choice of remediation management where it is required.

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