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Thursday, 08 March 2012 (3024219)
Council call emergency meeting after two-mile stretch containing asbestos found on beach
by David Raven

ASBESTOS rubble discovered spread out over a two-mile stretch of Crosby beach has sparked an emergency meeting from Sefton Council leaders.

The Champion revealed this week how building remains from The Blitz bombings used as a coastal defence between Crosby and Hightown contains many potentially lethal asbestos materials.

The scheme was aiming to bolster the sea wall but over the past year erosion has worn most of the sand away leaving segments of asbestos exposed near to the Anthony Gormley Statues.

But the Health Protection Agency believe people should not worry as they said that currently there is ‘no significant inhalation risk' to the public from any loose asbestos fibres.

They confirmed the asbestos is ‘non-friable' which means it will only release particles into the air if it is disturbed or severely damaged and have advised Sefton Council to keep the coastal path open for the time being while they decide what to do.

The Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group information officer, John Flanagan, said: “For asbestos to be dangerous or harmful it has to be in what they call a friable condition as it's only when fibres are being given off that inhalation occurs.

”But we still believe that all asbestos is dangerous. We would need to see the full report to determine if there was any risk.“

The find was discovered by Litherland joiner Brian Cousins, 62, who spent most of his life dealing with asbestos and has lost close friends to the silent killer.

He became aware of asbestos fragments on the beach after spotting children skimming a pile of stones that appeared to contain bits of asbestos and warned Sefton Council in December last year.

Brian said: ”The battering that the asbestos has taken over so many years has meant that it has eroded which means the fibres are already airborne.

“This has to be the most poisonous beach in the world, Crosby beach is sitting on a timebomb and the council are doing nothing about it.

”I have family members and friends who have died of asbestosis and it's a crippling disease. It results in one of the most horrible deaths you can ever imagine.

“The council are just washing their hands of the situation. They should put a cordon around it and get experts to clean it up but they won't because it is too costly.

”First there are cleaning fees and then you have the potential compensation claims from any victims of asbestosis living nearby so they can't just simply can't afford it.

“There are thousands of people turning up to see Anthony Gormley's statues and they have no idea what they could be breathing in.

”My children and your children are the future and if this doesn't get cleaned up then our future generations are going to suffer because of it.“

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral often found in insulation materials around building materials.

White, blue and brown asbestos are listed as potentially dangerous and have been made illegal in the UK because if asbestos is damaged, the fibres become airborne and can be inhaled.

Experts believe the higher the levels of asbestos and the longer the time someone is exposed to it, the greater their risk of developing problems.

Studies show that the amount of asbestosis deaths will rise over the next few years and won't peak until 2020.

A spokesman for Sefton Council said: ”Continuous coastal erosion north of Crosby beach has exposed what are believed to be limited amounts of asbestos-containing material.

“This material has been buried for more than 50 years within rubble originally deposited along the coast to help with sea defences.

”As soon as this was discovered, we contacted the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for their professional advice and air sampling has concluded that there is no significant inhalation risk to the public from loose asbestos fibres in the air.

“On these grounds, and following further discussions with the HPA, we have decided to keep the coastal path between Blundellsands and Hightown open.

”Monitoring will continue in the area and further ground tests and air sampling will be undertaken as we continue to work with our partner agencies to determine what further action is necessary.“

Deputy leader of Sefton Council Paula Parry said: ”I am shocked - this is the first I have heard of it.

“I was aware that rubble from The Blitz was used to strengthen coastal defences but not that it contained asbestos.

”Obviously we will have to look into it further because the worry is the amount that could potentially be there.

“The rubble went into the making of the sea wall boundaries after WWII and when you go down on the Coastguard station you can see it stretches all along the coast.

”I don't know what the safety levels are and asbestos is one of those words that frightens people, with some justification too, so it is important that we look into it further.“

Councillor Parry dismissed any suggestions that the recent sand dune remedial works could have affected any of the asbestos.

She said: ”Unless there was asbestos under the sand dunes I wouldn't think that the remedial works would have disturbed any of it.“


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