Asbestos levels at Cwmcarn school could be ‘much lower’ than first thought

South Wales Argus: Asbestos levels at Cwmcarn school could be ‘much lower’ than first thought Asbestos levels at Cwmcarn school could be ‘much lower’ than first thought

ASBESTOS levels at a Valleys school closed over health fears could be much lower than once thought, a new report reveals.

The Health and Safety Executive arranged for the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to carry out testing at Cwmcarn High School, after an earlier investigation by Santia Asbestos Management Ltd suggested asbestos debris in the ceiling voids was responsible for above average concentrations of airborne asbestos fibres in classrooms.

Overall it concluded there was no evidence of a "quantifiable transfer" of asbestos fibres and found average concentrations in the occupied areas of the school were very low.

It added they were many times lower than those Santia measured and were well below the recognised limit of 0.0001 fibres per millilitre.

Instead the amounts were similar to those found in background levels in the atmosphere.

Attempts to disturb the fibres through opening doors and windows found again found levels remained below the level of quantification.

HSL said methods used by Santia were not accurate in counting asbestos fibres because it assumed all fibres present in the samples taken were asbestos, when in a school setting they could include paper, clothing, skin cell, school chalk and plasterboard fibres.

It added the only way the fibres could be correctly identified, as asbestos would be via electron microscopy.

The report said the presence of asbestos fibres was only a concern if they become airborne and are inhaled. Even then the probability of chance that any ill health would occur is very small, it said.

Caerphilly council has now agreed to pay for a management survey to be completed at the site in the next three weeks to decide whether pupils and teachers currently being housed at the former Coleg Gwent campus in Ebbw Vale can return to the site.

Chairman of governors, Gary Thomas said he was pleased the council was working with the school so they could agree a plan for the future.

A council spokesman said: "We are hopeful that a suitable solution can be found in respect of the problems at the school site and the council are anxious to work with the Governors and the head teacher on this issue.

"The council’s main priority remains and will continue to be the welfare and education of the children attending school at Cwmcarn."

One parent said the upheaval of the school had hit children hard.

He said: "It’s caused torment for the parents and for the children, they’ve had to have health counselling all based on the Santia report that now is completely at odds with the HSL report."

Comments (11)

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4:36pm Mon 4 Feb 13

bradybunch says...

Much lower?!?!?!
Don't you mean 'the asbestos in the air in the school is NO higher than in the air outside the school!!!!!!!'

The children, staff & families have been put through so much stress and worry, for what. For nothing!!
Much lower?!?!?! Don't you mean 'the asbestos in the air in the school is NO higher than in the air outside the school!!!!!!!' The children, staff & families have been put through so much stress and worry, for what. For nothing!! bradybunch

4:50pm Mon 4 Feb 13

JWG1967 says...

Whilst it must be said that the council acted promptly on the advice of these consultants, serious questions must be asked.
It appears the consultants expected to find asbestos given the schools age and construction. It appears they used an imprecise method of identifying asbestos and they reported asbestos without actually double checking the accuracy of this report. On the basis of this flawed result they then recommended the demolition of the school. I hope that serious questions are put to these consultants in respect of their findings.
It is a concern that the authority chose not to undertake their own second opinion, which is like going to the doctors with a headache, being told it might be cancer or it might be migraine and booking yourself in for a one way trip to the euthanasia clinic instead of asking for an x ray.
In fact if the school had not stood firm it is quite possible that the authority would have ploughed on with what now appears to be unnecessary demolition works. Readers should remind themselves of what the authority did when the school asked for a second consultant to repeat the survey.
The cost of this is immense in terms of distress to pupils, their parents, staff, the village of Cwmcarn, users of the leisure centre and others.
Parents have moved their children's school bought new uniforms and those children have separated from their friends and have been shoehorned into other schools.
Parents have also had to worry about their children's health - although these results are great relief.
There is also the financial costs - not least of all the money committed by the authority to bus children to Ebbw Vale.
The very well paid chief executive of ccbc the director of education and their staff who engaged with these consultants should be made to face a public meeting to explain this farce.
I can only hope that the children can move back into Cwmcarn as quickly as they moved out.
Whilst it must be said that the council acted promptly on the advice of these consultants, serious questions must be asked. It appears the consultants expected to find asbestos given the schools age and construction. It appears they used an imprecise method of identifying asbestos and they reported asbestos without actually double checking the accuracy of this report. On the basis of this flawed result they then recommended the demolition of the school. I hope that serious questions are put to these consultants in respect of their findings. It is a concern that the authority chose not to undertake their own second opinion, which is like going to the doctors with a headache, being told it might be cancer or it might be migraine and booking yourself in for a one way trip to the euthanasia clinic instead of asking for an x ray. In fact if the school had not stood firm it is quite possible that the authority would have ploughed on with what now appears to be unnecessary demolition works. Readers should remind themselves of what the authority did when the school asked for a second consultant to repeat the survey. The cost of this is immense in terms of distress to pupils, their parents, staff, the village of Cwmcarn, users of the leisure centre and others. Parents have moved their children's school bought new uniforms and those children have separated from their friends and have been shoehorned into other schools. Parents have also had to worry about their children's health - although these results are great relief. There is also the financial costs - not least of all the money committed by the authority to bus children to Ebbw Vale. The very well paid chief executive of ccbc the director of education and their staff who engaged with these consultants should be made to face a public meeting to explain this farce. I can only hope that the children can move back into Cwmcarn as quickly as they moved out. JWG1967

4:58pm Mon 4 Feb 13

Goldy_Lookin_Clart says...

They should call Cwmcarn the "Phoenix" cos it do ave risen up against both Gwent and Caerphilly Councils like on numerous occassions in the last 20 years like.
They should call Cwmcarn the "Phoenix" cos it do ave risen up against both Gwent and Caerphilly Councils like on numerous occassions in the last 20 years like. Goldy_Lookin_Clart

5:06pm Mon 4 Feb 13

lisann says...

Well said JWG1967! Couldn't have put it better myself!
Well said JWG1967! Couldn't have put it better myself! lisann

6:47pm Mon 4 Feb 13

trigg_27 says...

I can't help thinking of the old adage here "Follow the money". The council seem suspiciously keen for the school to be closed and demolished.

In view of the new build housing estate being built less than a mile down the road, could it be that the council were hoping to be able to sell the land off to developers for a tidy sum?

Perhaps one of your journalists should start asking questions about what the council planned to do with the site if demolition works had taken place and how much short term profit the council would have gained?
I can't help thinking of the old adage here "Follow the money". The council seem suspiciously keen for the school to be closed and demolished. In view of the new build housing estate being built less than a mile down the road, could it be that the council were hoping to be able to sell the land off to developers for a tidy sum? Perhaps one of your journalists should start asking questions about what the council planned to do with the site if demolition works had taken place and how much short term profit the council would have gained? trigg_27

6:54pm Mon 4 Feb 13

gemm24 says...

'Could be?' What a poor headline ! The report states that the levels of asbestos are below levels of quantification. In plain English this means that they are barely measureable. There is no 'Could be about it. The management at Santia should be made accountable for their inept measuring methods and scaremongering reports which have caused massive upheaval to our community and needless health worries for 900 children.
'Could be?' What a poor headline ! The report states that the levels of asbestos are below levels of quantification. In plain English this means that they are barely measureable. There is no 'Could be about it. The management at Santia should be made accountable for their inept measuring methods and scaremongering reports which have caused massive upheaval to our community and needless health worries for 900 children. gemm24

7:30pm Mon 4 Feb 13

bobmech1 says...

It just goes to prove that CBCC main aim was as always to shut the school
So that they can save Risca Comprehensive and Newbridge Comprehensive
They should now be forced to reimburse the school, pupils etc for the extra costs, monies spent on new uniforms and allow the children that they frightened from the school back
Questions need to be asked by local AM's and the Welsh Government about CBCC's behaviour
It just goes to prove that CBCC main aim was as always to shut the school So that they can save Risca Comprehensive and Newbridge Comprehensive They should now be forced to reimburse the school, pupils etc for the extra costs, monies spent on new uniforms and allow the children that they frightened from the school back Questions need to be asked by local AM's and the Welsh Government about CBCC's behaviour bobmech1

9:45pm Mon 4 Feb 13

JWG1967 says...

Someone needs to ask questions info the industry that has spring up around asbestos detection and removal.
Combine the long term scare factor of asbestos, the low risk preferences of local authorities and money and what do you get.... The goose that lays the golden eggs - well at least if you are an asbestos consultant.
Someone needs to ask questions info the industry that has spring up around asbestos detection and removal. Combine the long term scare factor of asbestos, the low risk preferences of local authorities and money and what do you get.... The goose that lays the golden eggs - well at least if you are an asbestos consultant. JWG1967

7:50am Tue 5 Feb 13

TanyaW says...

@ trigg_27 The land Cwmcarn High is situated on is owned by the governors of the school. But I'm not 100% convinced the council realised this to begin with ;-)
@ trigg_27 The land Cwmcarn High is situated on is owned by the governors of the school. But I'm not 100% convinced the council realised this to begin with ;-) TanyaW

4:21pm Tue 5 Feb 13

Robert Shillabeer says...

The education authority acted in the correct manner in my view. None of them are experts in asbestos and were told that it was dangerous so they acted in good faith. They should have got a second opinion, but oh dear thay called in the HSE who got their labs to do tests and as the experts found no real risk. The fault really lies with the original company who reported the erroneous levels which incidentally is a company which earns its income dealing with asbestos clearing, a conflict of interest seems to be in there somewhere.
The education authority acted in the correct manner in my view. None of them are experts in asbestos and were told that it was dangerous so they acted in good faith. They should have got a second opinion, but oh dear thay called in the HSE who got their labs to do tests and as the experts found no real risk. The fault really lies with the original company who reported the erroneous levels which incidentally is a company which earns its income dealing with asbestos clearing, a conflict of interest seems to be in there somewhere. Robert Shillabeer

8:56pm Tue 5 Feb 13

rlewis says...

In the light of this recent information, I really hope that parents who transferred their children to other schools reconsider. It has been a very traumatic situation, with the relocation, health and transport stresses for everyone concerned. Children slotted into other Comprehensive schools have had to endure that additional stress. Through no fault of their own, Cwmcarn High has lost quite a number of pupils. It would be good to see them, with all the other pupils, return to Cwmcarn High School on the Cwmcarn site.
In the light of this recent information, I really hope that parents who transferred their children to other schools reconsider. It has been a very traumatic situation, with the relocation, health and transport stresses for everyone concerned. Children slotted into other Comprehensive schools have had to endure that additional stress. Through no fault of their own, Cwmcarn High has lost quite a number of pupils. It would be good to see them, with all the other pupils, return to Cwmcarn High School on the Cwmcarn site. rlewis

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