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Soil Contamination: Assessing and Treating Asbestos for Safe Remediation

May 25, 2023
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When it comes to soil contamination, asbestos is a serious health hazard that requires careful assessment and management. At EESI, we have years of experience in assessing asbestos in soil and providing safe and effective remediation solutions.

Looking for suspected fragments of asbestos containing material (ACM) in a soil sample.

A naturally occurring mineral fibre, asbestos was widely used as a fire-resistant building material in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, all six types of asbestos fibre have been found to have carcinogenic properties and are linked to causing serious health issues, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

As a result, asbestos is now tightly regulated. Common ways soil can become contaminated with asbestos include poor demolition practices, use of fill material containing asbestos, burial of asbestos containing waste, or illegal dumping. Asbestos in soil can be a major health hazard for humans as it can be released into the air when disturbed and then inhaled.

At EESI, we assess the health risk from the asbestos in soil by first undertaking a test pitting program. This helps us delineate the bounds of the asbestos (vertically and horizontally), estimate the area and volume of impacted soil, and potentially assess for other contaminants for waste disposal purposes.

We then classify the asbestos as either bonded or non-bonded (friable) and provide a waste classification for the soil/asbestos mix. We then work with the landowner to select the right immediate control measures and discuss remediation/management options.

Tests for asbestos in soil are typically done using a technique called polarising light microscopy (PLM). This technique examines the soil sample under a microscope and looks for any fibres that could be asbestos. If asbestos is present, then further steps must be taken to remove it or manage it in place.

Remediation of asbestos in soil typically involves either physical removal or encapsulation. Physical removal involves digging up the soil and asbestos or hand picking out the asbestos if suitable to do so. The asbestos waste is then disposed of at a licensed landfill. Encapsulation, or capping, involves creating a physical barrier between the asbestos and people using the area. The physical barrier can be hardstand (such as concrete or bitumen), compacted earth or a chemical sealant.

Our team is committed to providing the highest quality of service and strive to exceed expectations on every project. Our team of Licensed Asbestos Assessors, Competent Persons and B-Class Asbestos removalists are highly qualified to handle all aspects of asbestos soil remediation, from identification to mitigation. We recently completed a large asbestos remediation project for a Tier 1 construction company, which saved approximately 10,000 m3 of clean fill material from disposal as asbestos contaminated soil via a thorough desktop assessment and detailed test pitting program.

If you identify asbestos in your soil, it is important to engage a qualified and experienced consultant to assess the potential risk and then recommend and implement appropriate mitigation measures.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Bonded asbestos in soil as a result of the import and use of poor quality fill material.

A warning layer of orange plastic being placed above asbestos impacted soil prior to placement of a 0.5m cap of clean fill.
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The Environmental Earth Sciences International Group acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.