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The Council is calling on residents to ensure waste is disposed of appropriately following the discovery of small traces of asbestos at the Tovi waste plant

2 February 2017

Items that are suspected to contain hazardous substances must not be disposed of in household rubbish bins or in the general rubbish bins at recycling centres. Residents should instead visit or call Essex County Council's Waste Management Helpline on 0345 603 7625 for advice.

Following the discovery, drivers transporting waste to the Tovi processing plant in Basildon have been advised to wear face masks as a temporary measure after air quality monitoring tests revealed small traces of asbestos in the delivery hall at the site.
Essex County Council has put the precaution in place following the results of tests carried out at the end of last year.

They revealed asbestos levels in the air which were within the legal limit. However, as there is no acknowledged safe level, the Council has been advised that precautionary measures should be enacted whilst further testing takes place.

A small number of drivers who delivered waste to the plant and took part in the tests or were present in the delivery hall during the testing period are being informed of the results and offered advice as a result. The Council is also contacting employees of other councils and waste transfer contractors previously involved in delivering waste to the site to inform them. Although the risk to health is minimal, the Council is contacting those concerned because any occupational health issue like this is of the utmost importance.

The Council is also reassuring residents that asbestos has only been detected within the confines of the plant and there is no evidence of any wider issue.

It is believed the asbestos could have found its way into the site after being illegally dumped at one of the County’s Recycling Centres for Household Waste. It is not unusual for small amounts of asbestos to be discovered among materials deposited for recycling, despite the possible health risks to staff in the waste supply chain. We are liaising with the operator of the facility to address these issues.

Residents will notice no difference to how their waste is collected as a result of the precautionary measures.

Councillor Simon Walsh, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste, said: “The safety of Council workers and contractors is our No1 priority.

“Although these air readings from the tests were within safety guidelines, we decided to take precautionary measures until further testing has been carried out.

“We are moving quickly to inform all those affected by these results and offer advice and support.

“This is a sensible and proportionate response to remove any potential risk while we await the results of further testing. I would like reassure members of the public that these results pose no health risk to the wider community.

“Asbestos is a common problem due to its wide usage as an insulator in homes and other buildings until 1999. We are investigating how it found its way into the Tovi plant.”