Letter and response from Cllr Andrew Morgan Ref: Michael Sobell Sports Centre in Aberdare & Blaengwawr Comprehensive School.
Posted by Lewis on the 27th January 2016
Following our meeting with Christine Chapman Assembly member for Cynon Valley about the volume of asbestos in the Michael Sobell Sports Centre in Aberdare & Blaengwawr Comprehensive School
Mrs. Chapman suggested we write to local councilors and Andrew Morgan I wrote to Cllr Andrew Morgan and my colleague has written to 4 local councillors 2 in Aberaman North and 2 in Aberaman South, only Cllr Sheryl Evans replied and said she would get back to him.
You will note Cllr Andrew Morgan has not responded to our reference to asbestos in Blaengwawr Comprehensive School I don’t know why perhaps he has his reasons for no comment on the school.
Cllr Morgan has not endorsed his response with official documentation or photographic evidence for the Michael Sobell Sports Centre.
AberdareOnline suggested “As I have said I believe the public should be made aware” Cllr Morgan response was
“but it is not our intention to inform the public further as we have done all that is reasonably required of us to comply with legislation.”
Below a letter addressed to Andrew Morgan
Andrew Morgan Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC
7th January 2016
Dear Mr. Morgan,
REF: Asbestos and Asbestos dust in Michael Sobell Sports Centre in Aberdare & Blaengwawr Comprehensive School.
Following a meeting with Christine Chapman Assembly member for Cynon Valley I have been requested to write to you with reference to the above.
Having been made aware of the volume of asbestos dust in the Michael Sobell Sports Centre you were aware this has been publicised in the press.
Following a freedom of information request to Claire Gummer
Corporate Governance Team Legal & Democratic Services RCTC I received a copy of the Asbestos Reports for the Michael Sobell Sports Centre. After reading the report I contacted Mrs. Chapman, Elaine Parrott and Leanne Wood Assembly members for South Wales Central asking them to look into what I see as a major problem of uncontrolled asbestos dust in a public building.
Both Mrs. Chapman and Ms. Parrott had identical response letters from your interim chef executive Chris Bradshaw; Ms. Wood received a response from Colin Atyeo, Director of Corporate Estates at RCTC. I understand from reading the letters asbestos was removed from the building but asbestos was retained within the building because as Mr. Bradshaw explains it was impractical to remove. The letter explains how when asbestos was not removed, there appears to be a system employed of encapsulating the asbestos in the building.
From experience and reading encapsulation is not a 100% guarantee that toxic asbestos dust will not leach out this being the case at the Sobell Centre as highlighted in the volume of toxic dust found in brickwork joints at the Sobell Centre. I believe the cheaper option of encapsulation the choice adopted by RCTC in the past was morally wrong, the council at the time elected not to go for the more expensive opinion of close the center and remove what was known at the time a very dangerous material putting peoples lives at risk for the sake of saving money in the short term. I am informed that because of the volume of asbestos within the building it is costing £6.3 Million to demolish the Michael Sobell Sports Centre, your asbestos contractor is so concerned of the volume of dust has sealed up all the external panels of the Sobell Centre standard practice for notifiable and some non-Licensed Work for asbestos removal.
Blaengwawr Comprehensive School, I have again under FOI received asbestos reports for the school again like the Sobell Centre there are still large quantities of toxic asbestos dust in parts of the building as well as insulating boards of brown asbestos. You would be aware of a report highlighting large quantities of toxic asbestos dust in several schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf; I am unaware if Blaengwawr Comprehensive School was one of the schools highlighted in the report, as I don’t have a copy. Having spoken to past pupils who inform me that they can remember when parts of the school were out of bounds when asbestos was being removed this work must have been achieved when students were attending lessons.
As you were aware the presence of asbestos in schools is well know and well documented, the Petitions Committee in the Assembly has received evidence from Cenric Clement-Evans and there is a Cross Party Group meeting on the 27th January.
I have highlighted the Sobell Centre and Blaengwawr Comprehensive School to Cenric Evans who asked if I would also contact Andrew R T Davies and David Mellor both Assembly members for South Wales Central and explain to them my concerns this I have written to both members.
As you were aware any infection by asbestos dust may take many years to appear, when the dust is breathed in, the asbestos fibres enter the lungs and can gradually damage them over time the symptoms are more likely to get worse in people who smoke, and smoking also increases the risk of lung cancer in people with asbestosis.
The present administration at RCTC has been burdened with the bad decisions made in the past I believe the public should be informed of the potential consequence of coming into contact with asbestos dust in public building especially the Sobell Centre as the presence of toxic dust was know as far back as the as the early as the 1930s it was understood that exposure to asbestos fibres could cause a range of health problems.
Mrs. Chapman informed us at the meeting she is writing to the Health and Safety Executive, I am informed Elaine Parrott is also in contact with your office and explained in an email she is going to ask a question in the Assembly.
As I have said I believe the public should be made aware but not in a way to scaremonger people just tell people what has gone on and the cost of putting it right. As I said your administration have been left a legacy a bad one if it cost £8 million to demolish a building better that leave for future generations all that achieves is more cost on the overstretch National Health Service.
The responce below from Andrew Morgan
Dear Mr Thomas,
Thank you for your email dated 7 January 2016.
I have asked council officers to detail a reply to the points you have raised and they have responded as follows
“As a Council, we have always managed asbestos at the Michael Sobell Sports Centre in accordance with legislation and I confirm that we are in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012. As you know, we have previously responded to Freedom of Information requests, letters from Assembly Members and individual letters/emails from the public but it is not our intention to inform the public further as we have done all that is reasonably required of us to comply with legislation. If we believed that there had previously been anyone exposed to asbestos we would have notified them without dispute. However, there are no records of instances of uncontrolled release of asbestos at this site.
While writing, I must take the opportunity to point out that we did not have a ‘major problem of uncontrolled asbestos dust in a public building’ as you state in your second paragraph. It is not possible for you to work out the ‘volume’ of asbestos in the Michael Sobell Sports Centre with the information you have received - all that can be determined is the location. Your reference to a ‘morally wrong’ decision to encapsulate the asbestos is incorrect and you will probably be aware of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) principle that removing asbestos can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it. The decision to encapsulate the asbestos was not purely based upon a financial assessment as you suggest.
I would like to reassure you that asbestos did not ‘leach’ out of the encapsulation and penetrate the brickwork joints – this is not possible. Once encapsulated, the areas were regularly monitored to ensure there was no deterioration/escape of asbestos fibres. Whilst it is difficult to prove exactly how the asbestos became located within the brickwork beds and mortar it is not on the surface and not exposed , the most reasonable explanation is that it has been there since day one as a result of cross contamination at the time of construction. There is no evidence to indicate that previous actions of this Council have resulted in the asbestos fibres being discovered in the brickwork joints. Furthermore, I confirm that the building passed numerous air tests following all works undertaken by this Council prior to the building being re-occupied by employees/public/contractors.
All asbestos removal works currently being undertaken on site is undertaken by Licensed Contractors under the supervision of UKAS accredited Consultants all in accordance with HSE. The sealing of external panels is required for the removal process within an enclosure and is not because the ‘contractor is concerned with the volume of asbestos dust’ as you suggest.
I hope this addresses your concerns and would recommend you contact the HSE and draw your attention to the HSE website http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/duty.htm where there is some excellent information on the duty to manage asbestos”
Councillor Andrew Morgan
Leader, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council