22 December 2005

West Belfast asbestos dump serious risk to public


by Ciarán Barnes

The company behind the building of an asbestos dump next to a residential area in West Belfast has admitted the facility presents a serious risk to the public.

Sensitive documents obtained by the Andersonstown News from the Department of Regional Development reveal the dangers posed by the plant, which controversially won planning permission earlier this year.

Among these documents is a safety inspection carried out in July 2004 by site owners, Grove Services Group (GSG).

The safety inspection notes that there is a high risk to residents living near the dump breathing in cancer-causing asbestos fibres.

There is also a high risk, according to the inspection, of asbestos escaping from bags being transported to the dump, and a medium risk of the deadly dust escaping during manual handling by plant workers.

The Andersonstown News has also learned that containers attached to lorries taking an average two tonnes of asbestos to the dump each week in the Blackstaff Way area will not be airtight.

Despite this, the Health and Safety Executive said it had no objections to the opening of the dump, leading the Planning Service to grant it planning permission.

Residents have staged a number of protests outside the offices of GSG.
Belfast City Council has backed them by opposing the asbestos dump planning application.

However, the dump is on course to open early next year.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maskey, who organised a residents’ protest outside GSG’s offices, has called for a inquiry into how the asbestos dump received planning permission.

“The health of thousands of people living in West Belfast will be put at risk when this asbestos dump opens, even GSG admit this.

“Why then has the Planning Service and Health and Safety Executive given the plans a clean bill of health?”

Although contacted, no one from GSG was available for comment.

In a statement released to the Andersonstown News earlier this year, a spokesperson said, “We are complying with government regulations, policies and every part of the law in this process.

“We work with asbestos a lot and know the pitfalls associated with asbestos so everything we do is done under stringent control and is monitored by the Environment and Heritage Service.

“We are also taking every step we can to reduce the risk of contamination.”

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

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