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Asbestos in topsoil

(15 Posts)
Beingrippedoff Wed 10-May-17 17:23:52

Quick query
Our builder provided 'topsoil' which is contaminated with asbestos, glass, barbed wire etc. Council, SEPA, environmental health not interested.
Solicitor advises best we can do is pay for removal and try to get money back through legal BUT will not get back legal costs, no chance of compensation etc

Is this correct? Builder has built 20+ houses all potentially with asbestos in gardens and there is basically nothing we can do??
We are in Scotland btw

stargirl1701 Wed 10-May-17 17:28:27

Have you spoken to your councillor, MSP and MP?

Beingrippedoff Wed 10-May-17 17:51:36

MSP yes, could not help
Don't see what MP or councillor could do either, we have been in touch with head of building standards for Scottish government about a separate issue and all they recommended was that they came to check it was working now (septic tank and drainage faulty, we had to pay thousands to get it fixed as builder refused 😡)
So about as useful as a chocolate teapot

ThatsNotMyMummy Wed 10-May-17 17:55:10

Thats bloody awful, I can't offer any legal help but i vaguely remember a builder being on watch dog (this was years ago) who had done something similar. Id get your neighbours together and contact the press.

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Wed 10-May-17 18:03:40

Small house builder or national chain? What type of asbestos and what sort of quantity? What is the scale of contaminated land? Any account from builder so far?

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Wed 10-May-17 18:09:06

Sorry, more questions. Was it brownfield land the houses were built on? Could this contaminated soil have come from the original site or was it brought in from somewhere?

Very surprising that SEPA are not interested, they are usually the correct regulator for this. Maybe appeal their decision - take it higher.

Beingrippedoff Wed 10-May-17 19:01:39

It's white asbestos fragments up to 10cm in size. The less dangerous kind I believe. I originally found 10 pieces which we sent off for confirmation and disposal, but the samples were lost by courier (apparently!)
I then found another 5 or 5 pieces which we still have stored.

The site was originally farmland and there was building with asbestos roof here. However other people have verified his story that the top soil was imported, and this is all stuff I have found on surface.
He's a small builder has built less than 50 houses so far. He says it's graded topsoil and no one else has complained. It's also contaminated with lots of broken glass, metal fragments e.g. A rusted Stanley knife, wrench, even 2 concrete fence posts with wire still attached. My suspicion is that he didn't bring in any soil but neighbours have said they saw him bringing stuff in. Some neighbours had their gardens turfed so don't know how bad their soil is, across the road looks quite bad but nowhere as bad as ours

I do plan to go back to sepa, I think maybe a big fine would make him think again about doing this.
Doesn't help us with the hours and hours spent trying to collect all the crap out of our garden and apparently unless we paid someone else to do it we can't expect to be able to get any money back for this endless task.

It's just shocking how badly protected you are for the biggest purchase of your life. Basically it's tough shit, fix it yourself ☹️

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Wed 10-May-17 19:09:32

He may have brought in a small amount of topsoil to level out, but sounds like the contamination was already there and the site rubbish was added as well.

How old is the house now?

Definitely back to SEPA. I'd also consider the reporting him to the HSE. They can't do anything about rectifying your garden, but they may well be interested in how he handles asbestos on other sites in future. If you do that, I'd couch it as a concern about the health and welfare of his employees and subcontractors who must have been exposed to asbestos during the construction of the houses.

This is what he should have been doing: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/managing/brownfield.htm

White asbestos is chrysotile, the lowest risk to people of the types out there, but is still a risk if fibres are inhaled. Leave it alone as much as you can, and if needs be pay a professional to assist.

Beingrippedoff Wed 10-May-17 19:17:18

Just over a year. We've had to sell our rental house (at bottom of a very flat market locally so have lost a fortune) to pay for repairs to new house. We've been told no chance of any compensation for all the stress and time wasted on this.
There just doesn't seem to be any incentive for builders to do a good job. He got all his money for a shoddy build with lots of problems, we've had to pick up the bill for repairs and might be able to get some of this back if we spend another £5k on legal/adjudication

It's pretty shocking really

Thanks for the advice vivienne

RedastheRose Wed 10-May-17 20:31:43

Not sure of the legal system in Scotland but didn't your house come with a guarantee (NHBC or similar)? If so you may be able to get money back or get works done through them. If not do you have a mortgage? If so your bank have a vested interest in your property and may have more clout in getting this resolved by the builder (i.e. They won't lend on any of his properties again unless he sorts it.

Again not sure about the system in Scotland but in England local environmental health department would be very unhappy about this. Also it may be a breach of the original planning permission if he was supposed to safely clear the site before construction took place.

Finally, your own house insurance should come with some legal assistance cover and you may well be able to use that to make a proper claim against the builder.

stargirl1701 Wed 10-May-17 20:46:06

The local paper? Bad publicity for the builder.

Beingrippedoff Wed 10-May-17 22:11:24

red home insurance legal cover wouldn't help.
Builder didn't have nhbc at that time (does now) and even if he did it seems it's not worth the paper it's written on
Environmental health said it was outwith their remit! No idea why
I'll try to find the original planning paperwork and see if it mentions anything like that, thanks for suggestions

stargirl papers would def be a last resort but will do this if need be. We will need to get the word out somehow but it's not our job really and I'm a very private person so would be very challenging for me!

BikeRunSki Wed 10-May-17 22:37:23

Hi - I work for the Environment Agency (in England), and DH is the geotechnical director of a civil engineer consultancy - we know about this type of situation.

1 - what the builder has done is illegal
2 - In England, this would be a matter for the Environment Agency Contaminated Land team, at the appropriate area office. In Scotland, I believe that Contaminated Land Officers are employed by the Local Authority. Speak to them, and also Trading Standards. (Also sometimes called Waste Officers).
3 - The developer should be able to provide you with laboratory test certificates, certifying that the topsoil is "clean" with respect to the H&s law, regs and codes of practice relating to Asbestos. Also CLEA guidance for chemical contamination.
4- But physical contamination- barbed wire - etc is not really so regulated as it is so obvious! The material you have is really waste. It's ok to build a garden on contaminated land as long as it is capped with clean topsoil. Normal minimum is 300 mm, but 450 mm is often used to aid plant growth and to cover their backs!
5 - if a metrical has no purpose, then it becomes waste. Asbestos has no purpose in soil, so the soil is waste;, it is clearly not fit for purpose in a domestic garden.

Sounds like your developer is trying to pull a fast one. In theory it's pretty simple to scrape up your soil and put down properly clean topsoil and grass seed/turf, but the developers should do this (it will be much cheaper for them anyway, since they will have all the right plant and labour to hand. I would think this is something to pursue through Trading Standards.

Beingrippedoff Fri 12-May-17 23:51:03

I didn't know trading standards could apply in this situation bike, thanks I will look into this

cv3v Tue 26-Sep-17 08:43:39

What Bluerunski says is correct, although the arrangements in Scotland are slightly different. In Scotland you need to make a formal complaint to the Contaminated Land Officer in your local council (they are within the Environmental Health Department). Also try and find out if other residents are affected, as well as any open grass areas where kids might be playing (or pets dragging asbestos into the house!).

The builder has supplied a topsoil which is not fit for purpose, regardless of what test certificates he may have, there is visible contamination in it (asbestos, barbed wire etc). So it is likely they may also be in breach of the planning permission for the site, as a brownfield site there will be planning conditions relating to soil quality.

Also, as the topsoil is not fit for purpose they have used a material classed as a 'waste', in which case SEPA can also get involved.

I would avoid lawyers (for now), the council has a much bigger stick and it is free.

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