Blot on the Landscape
Last night (September 16, 2015), Rochdale Borough Council approved plans to undertake airborne testing for asbestos contamination around the former site of Turner Brothers Asbestos, in its heyday the worlds largest facility for asbestos manufacturing. The full cost of testing at the 72 acre privately-owned property will, according to a report by Chief Public Protection Officer for Rochdale Council Andy Glover be borne by Rochdale Council.
In a radio interview broadcast live yesterday morning on BBC Manchester, Mr. Glover said the Council, was working in partnership with the property owner to reassure local people that there was no airborne risk. Speaking to the reporter, Glover commented:
The Council wants to reassure local residents in terms of any risk to health that might be perceived from any airborne asbestos contamination from the site. The Council doesn't think thats the case but clearly we want to reassure local residents by carrying out proper tests, scientifically, that will confirm that and move forward.
Disparaging the scheme as a public relations exercise, a spokesman for the Save Spodden Valley (SSV) campaign said that the land was a toxic blight which required an unbiased arbiter to protect Rochdale citizens from hazardous exposures. In an interview with a local news outlet, SSV coordinator Jason Addy expressed grave concern about the Councils scheme:
For over 10 years we have been asking for baseline air monitoring of the site as a basic for robust and scientifically sound fact gathering. The purpose of testing should be to establish the facts so that safe and accountable decisions can be made. If Rochdale Councils position is that air monitoring is to provide reassurance then there is a danger that the public could see this as a cynical PR exercise with a predetermined outcome.1
Mr. Addy and others have lobbied extensively for action on the contamination and consulted with environmental, scientific, technical and medical experts.2 Discussions and meetings on this topic which have taken place in the Houses of Parliament, the European Parliament, the European Social Forum and elsewhere have highlighted the ongoing hazard posed by the unremediated site to workers and members of the public. Local residents have called for a precautionary approach to this complex situation and will not, Mr. Addy confirmed, be fobbed off with less.
September 17, 2015
1 Missed opportunity for robust asbestos testing? September 16, 2015
2 According to company documents, during the 1950s, the asbestos company created and dumped 15,000 lbs. of asbestos-contaminated dust on this site every week.