Asbestos And Soil Contamination: 3 FAQs

6 June 2016
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


Soil contamination limits affect the suitability of soil for various uses (e.g. gardening). The presence of asbestos-containing materials in soil is considered contamination, and it poses a health risk to those exposed to the contaminated soil on a regular basis.

This article answers three questions that first-time homeowners in New South Wales may have in relation to asbestos soil contamination.

How Does Asbestos Soil Contamination Occur?

Asbestos soil contamination occurs when asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are deposited in the soil. Common examples of asbestos-containing materials include roofing materials such as asphalt shingles and the materials used to insulate residential drainage pipes.

In a large number of cases, asbestos-containing materials are not properly disposed after construction and demolition-related activities within the residential premises. Illegal dumping of waste from an off-site location is also often responsible for asbestos soil contamination. For this reason, those moving into a newly-constructed house are often advised to ensure that the soil within the premises is tested for asbestos contamination by a licensed asbestos assessor before they move into the house.

For those moving into a pre-owned house, the soil test is necessary because the house is likely to have been renovated prior to their move.

Are There DIY Solutions To Asbestos Soil Contamination?

Indeed. There are DIY remediation solutions for asbestos contaminated soil. However, the most appropriate remediation solution for asbestos contaminated soil depends on the type of asbestos present in the soil and the potential risk of exposure to asbestos fibres from ACMs deposited in the soil.

Exposure to friable asbestos poses a greater risk to the homeowner than the risk posed by exposure to non-friable asbestos. This is because friable asbestos easily crumbles into a powder-like residue when pressure is applied on an asbestos-containing material. Once crumbled, it becomes easy for asbestos fibres from the material to become airborne.

The depth of asbestos containing materials within the soil may also determine whether a DIY solution will work. If ACMs are buried deep in the soil, the best solution is to leave these materials undisturbed so as to prevent the likelihood that asbestos fibres will be released into the atmosphere. If not, removal of the asbestos containing materials becomes necessary.

Who Is Qualified To Undertake Asbestos Removal?

Anyone who holds an asbestos-removal license from the government of New South Wales is qualified to undertake asbestos removal in contaminated soil.

There are two types of license required for asbestos removal specialists. Class A licenses are issued to persons allowed to undertake removal of friable asbestos while Class B license holders are authorized to undertake removal of non-friable asbestos. The asbestos assessor will be in a position to advise homeowners on the type of asbestos present in their contaminated soil.