MHCLG: No need for ‘immediate action’ on Grenfell contamination

Testing moves to second stage with no initial evidence of the “significant possibility of significant harm”.

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Initial environmental checks in and around the Grenfell Tower site show “nothing to suggest” a need for immediate action, MHCLG says.

Testing will now move to a second stage with MHCLG seeing no need to change the investigation strategy or update existing advice from Public Health England.

The testing, announced last October to be carried out over spring and summer, is a two-stage process.

Laboratory analysis of Stage 1 by the independent specialist AECOM is now complete and the preliminary data is now available on the potential for soil contamination in the wake of the Grenfell disaster and the likelihood of any health risks as a result.

Published by MHCLG, the initial findings are:

  • At this point, the levels of substances found in samples are typical of those generally found in London and other urban areas across England
  • At present, there is nothing to suggest anyone needs to take any immediate action or need to change the investigation strategy or update the existing advice from Public Health England
  • Substances tested for in the soil do not appear to be present at high enough concentrations to lead to what is legally defined as a ‘significant possibility of significant harm’
  • Some levels of substances were above what are known as ‘soil screening levels’. This does not mean they necessarily pose a risk to health – the levels are similar to those found in other urban areas. If this were purely a legal and regulation matter, findings at these levels would not require any action, but MHCLG intends to continue investigating them
  • Stage 2, which involves further sampling, will proceed as planned so MHCLG can be “more certain of the findings”

MHCLG acknowledges more work needed to analyse the data and the full report is being worked on for publication in September.

Over stage 1, AECOM took a total of 93 samples from 20 areas within a 1km radius of the Tower and within the Grenfell Tower site cordon itself.

The sampling sites were decided with help from the community who identified where debris had been found and combined with scientific data from the Met Office about the smoke plume resulting from the fire.

The aim of Stage 1 was to collect background information including through research, a site walkover and exploratory samples from selected publicly accessible areas.

Stage 2 will involve more detailed sampling and analysis leading to a report which will provide conclusions and recommendations.

MHCLG expects to receive the full Stage 1 report, including the design for Stage 2, from AECOM in September.

Results are being independently reviewed by the Suitably Qualified Person (SQP), Dr Paul Nathanail of Land Quality Management Ltd, who is checking the specialists’ work at each stage.

Overseeing the testing process is an independent group of scientific experts the Science Advisory Group (SAG) that, following a review of technical documents and a meeting with AECOM and the SQP, concludes the programme of environmental checks for Stage 1 was “scientifically rigorous” with the Group having confidence in the measurement data.

As reported by 24housing, Kensington and Chelsea council was called out by a Commons committee in May 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.

The council was told to keep EAC updated on steps taken to tackle the risk of environmental contamination in homes and soil around the site.

Neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham Council is also to test soil samples in addressing health concerns from residents.

Investigations have revealed potentially toxic fire debris, such as charred insulation, in pieces small enough to enter surrounding – prompting calls for a deep clean of ventilation systems.

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