Kensington and Chelsea council has been called out by a Commons committee over its approach to toxic contamination identified around the Grenfell Tower site.
Evidence given to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) toxic chemicals inquiry indicated the presence of potentially toxic chemical residue inside homes around the site – with fire debris such as charred insulation being found at flats.
Now, EAC chair Mary Creagh MP has written to council leader Elizabeth Campbell to find out what action is being taken.
Cllr Campbell is asked to supply information on steps Kensington and Chelsea Council has taken to deal with the risk of environmental contamination in homes and soil around the Grenfell Tower site.
Neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham council is due to start testing soil samples in addressing health concerns from residents.
The EAC is also looking for evidence of assistance given to residents to remove any toxic chemical residue from their homes, other than advice on cleaning.
“It is astonishing that nearly two years after the fire at Grenfell, there are still questions to be asked about a clean-up to deal with the threat of contamination from toxic chemicals,” said Creagh.
“Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council must provide answers to evidence, discovered by scientists, of hazardous material in homes around the Grenfell site.
People whose lives have been blighted by the tragic events of that night should not be kept waiting for those answers.”
EAC has specifically questioned the decision not to carry out a deep clean of ventilation systems in homes around the Grenfell site.
In evidence the inquiry, Professor Anna Stec, a member of the Science Advisory Group to the government, reported that a hazardous chemical was found in one flat 90 metres away from the tower, 17 months after the fire.
Further investigations have revealed potentially toxic fire debris, such as charred insulation, in pieces small enough to enter flats. Professor Stec called for a deep clean of all of the flats in the area around Grenfell, including the extraction systems.
“We know that Hammersmith and Fulham Council is due to begin testing soil samples and takes seriously concerns from residents worried about their health – we want to know why Kensington and Chelsea is not taking action,” said Creagh.
The testing programme for Grenfell is led by MHCLG and the Government chief scientific advisor.
Kensington and Chelsea Council met with ministers yesterday and raised the issue.
The council has confirmed it will reply to EAC “in due course”
Cllr Campbell said the process had to be thorough, but acknowledged it also needs to accelerated in anyway it can be.
“The Government and Public Health England have assured us that they believe the risk remains low. Testing and sampling is underway.
“we are told that scientists will need time to analyse results and develop a programme that is both comprehensive and gives the community the necessary reassurances,” said Cllr Campbell.
So far 50 people have taken up the related offer of advanced health checks, and over 120 people have engaged in workshops to help understand and inform the Government testing programme.
An FAQ is available online and the Government have set up an email address for hose who want to raise concerns.