Were Councillors and the BBC misled over asbestos test results?
Jayne Barrett of BBC North West Tonight reports that residents in Rochdale are today calling on the office of Deputy Prime Minister to for a Public Inquiry because they suggest that developers have seriously misled town councillors and the BBC over important facts about asbestos contamination.
This concerns the former Turner and Newall site in Spodden Valley, Rochdale where there are controversial plans by a consortium, headed by Countryside Properties, to build over 600 homes and a children’s nursery on the site of the world’s largest asbestos textile factory
Independent tests that have just emerged, conducted in April 2005 by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) in Edinburgh confirm that 4 of the 32 samples taken were positive for asbestos.
One sample was 23 times higher than the threshold for Hazardous waste (2.3% asbestos – the statutory limit is 0.1% asbestos content by weight. Source: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/netregs/processes/367829/?lang=_e )
In addition, the Government’s Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) tests in April 2005 indicated up to 1% asbestos traces in 3 of 8 samples taken on crushed asbestos factory rubble on the site.
In total this confirms 8 positive test samples for asbestos throughout the development site. This figure does not include asbestos confirmed at known dumps to the north of the site where there are no plans to build.
In today’s call for Public Inquiry, campaigners cite 4 recent examples of what they suggest could be “wilful omissions” of facts about asbestos on the troubled site:
1. -at a public meeting of councillors and planners on May 12th developers stated that Institute of Occupational Medicine tests were negative for asbestos.
2. -it was suggested, in early May 2005, to a reporter for BBC TV North West Tonight that the site was ‘capped’.
3. -Acting on information from Countryside Properties, on May 26th 2005, Shari Vahl on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme informed the nation that 86 borehole tests had been conducted where they are planning to build and that only 1 of those tests proved positive for asbestos.
4. -An email sent June 2nd 2005 from joint owners of the site MMC Developments to Cllr. Tom Stott, Chair of the TBA Working Party stated that:
“Recent confirmatory analysis, by both Encia and HSE, has shown Crush to be free of asbestos.”
Campaigners have been told that public relations consultants acting for Countryside Properties maintain that the developers are “factually correct” about their statements about the controversial site. It has been said that they maintain the following:
-That comments made about Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) test results being negative were ‘factually correct’ because what they said at a meeting only related to the crushed asbestos factory rubble- and not soil samples from the rest of the development site.
-That Radio 4’s report of the initial 86 tests conducted by themselves only discovered 1 positive sample was ‘factually correct’ - because the additional 7 positive test results were from samples taken in early 2005.
-and finally, that the email saying that HSE tests were negative for asbestos was ‘factually correct’ because MMC were only referring to a specific pile of ‘crush’ and not a contiguous pile of finer crushed rubble that was confirmed positive for traces of asbestos.
Jason Addy, co-ordinator of Save Spodden Valley is incensed by the developers’ responses:
“Events of the last 3 months suggest a WILLFUL OMISSION by the developers of information concerning contamination that can cause one of the most aggressive terminal cancers known to science”.
“The developers have had repeated opportunities to confirm the presence of asbestos in the development site and set the record straight- they appear to have displayed ‘sleights of hand’ to suggest certain asbestos test results are negative”.
“This is like a drunk-driver suggesting he was ‘factually correct’ by telling a police officer that he hadn’t touched drop of WHISKY after downing a bottle of GIN”.
In his call for the Office of Deputy Prime Minister to commission a Public Inquiry into the controversial planning application Mr Addy concluded:
“When it comes to facts about potentially lethal contamination, the public have a right to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has been keeping a close eye on these recent developments. He awaits a ministerial reply following an adjournment debate he recently called in Parliament on the subject of contaminated land.