Asbestos Concerns At Welsh High School

 

Cwmcarn High School in Caerphilly was closed in October last year amid fears of a potential asbestos health hazard.

Students at the 900 pupil school were transferred to Coleg Gwent’s Ebbw Vale campus in October 2012 following a structural report which identified asbestos in the main school block.

A report by Santia Asbestos Management Limited stated that the heating system may have blown asbestos in the roof and that the airborne asbestos fibres were 10 times higher than the accepted levels. It was suggested that the safest way forward for both staff and pupils was demolition.

However, a report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has cast doubts on the level of danger. Following visual checks and further testing, the HSE found airborne asbestos fibres in the previously suspected contaminated areas to be very low.

The difference in the two levels is thought to be due to different testing methods. Seemingly, the Santia method does not distinguish between asbestos fibres and other fibres such as paper and skin cells, causing the estimate to be far higher than it should be.

The levels found by the HSE were similar to those that would be found in background levels in the general atmosphere.

However, the HSE said that the Council acted appropriately in its action to close the school as this was based on the initial readings from Santia.

In February this year the school was still closed and staff and pupils were travelling 13 miles to a previously vacant site. Parents protested at the continued closure of the school following the HSE saying it had no immediate concerns over the asbestos at the site, believing the asbestos was merely an excuse to keep the school closed.

In April 2013 it was finally decided that asbestos removal work would be carried out at a cost of around £1m. It is hoped that the work can be completed to allow students to return to Cwmcarn High School for the start of the new school year in September.