Asbestos throughout garden

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by rosewood, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. rosewood

    rosewood New Member

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    So I recently bought some land at it looks like I've got a bunch of asbestos laying around the future house (and garden) site. Great.

    There was probably an old fibro shack that got blown over in a storm many years ago, and then forgotten about until a bulldozer came along and smashed it up, leaving shards of the stuff scattered about the soil everywhere. I can go around and pick up every bit I can find (following safe handling procedures, double wrapping, etc etc) and take it to the dump, but I'm wondering whether I should be worried about the inevitable little bits and chips remaining which I can't find now.

    Should I be worried?

    I know it's the asbestos dust/fibres which are the dangerous part. If I want to be gardening this soil for the next 50 years do you think I'm putting myself at grave risk? I'm imagining things like - maybe there are little bits of dust/fibers in the soil now everyone, and every time I hit it with the chipping hoe it will float up into the air I breathe...??
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Rosewood,

    In some places asbestos occurs naturally in the soil ... makes for a challenge of sorts.

    https://www.epa.gov/region9/toxic/noa/

    I would think to take a two step approach. After hand picking (with due precautions) all you can, you might:
    1) Keep your soil moist when you're working it. Moisture keeps the asbestos fibers from floating around.
    2) Build up your organic soil layer as a sort of natural blanket. This will help contain the fibers, maintain soil moisture, and make a great environment for hosting the various microbiology of healthy soil.

    I personally wouldn't worry about this too much after you've retrieved the big bits (which will keep them from continuing to add fibers to the soil) if you take care to prevent airborne fibers. I have removed asbestos myself from a number of houses and the one key technique is dampening the asbestos-containing substance before disturbing it to prevent the fibers from becoming airborne.
     
  3. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I'd be more worried about the small bits myself and I'd get professional advice. Also about where you can dump it (pretty sure you can't just put it in any landfill).

    Will you be getting the site tested? Are you going to tell the tradies working on the house that there is asbestos on site? How about anyone working in your garden? Or if you sell? Will you never dig the garden again?

    What's your climate like? Where I live, it's dry and silt travels on the wind from many miles away, so the idea of things staying in the ground isn't something I would trust here.
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i don't know where you are at or the local laws, but it is likely that the previous owner should have disclosed the asbestos contamination upon the sale. so you may have recourse there, consult a local real-estate lawyer...

    in our area the costs of disposing asbestos here are rather high so it isn't something that we can set out at the curb for the trash haulers to remove.
     
  5. aroideana

    aroideana Junior Member

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    How do you know it is asbestos ? Might it not be fibre-cement ?
     
  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    if it is that would be great news for rosewood.
     
  7. rosewood

    rosewood New Member

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    Locally you can take it to the dump as long as it is double-wrapped in thick plastic and you declare it when you get there.

    I plan to get the stuff tested to confirm my suspicions, but a lot of local folk have opined that it is very likely asbestos as it was widely used in the area in the past.

    I've spoken to numerous asbestos-removing "professionals" and their views on the seriousness of my situation vary wildly.

    I guess I just wanted to survey the views of some like-minded permaculturalists on the matter.

    Gandalf - I think in my climate it would be possible to keep the ground fairly moist year-round once I have good organic matter established beneath gardens and mature food forests. Does anyone feel quite differently to Gandalf's view?
     
  8. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    If it turns out to be asbestos, I would err on the side of caution much more than 9anda1f. That probably comes from understanding how devastating ill health can be.

    My question still stand about the wellbeing of other people (and other animals too I guess). Even if you feel ok about the risk, are you going to tell other people so they can make their own decisions?
     
  9. aroideana

    aroideana Junior Member

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    Test is $100 , money well spent to be certain .
     
  10. Mysterious

    Mysterious Junior Member

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    if the fibro asbestos is painted then it might be worth considering if you also have lead contamination as it is likely that lead is present in the paint used
     
  11. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    its pretty safe if kept moist and still! which is what PC is all about!!!
     
  12. Carpulin

    Carpulin New Member

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    I have the same issues and did as Gandalf suggested. I have dumped about 40 cubic metres of ramiel wood chips over the 200 square metre site and planted fruit trees in there ( no till ). Keep the chooks out and don't worry too much but don't be foolish either. It's been ten years and I still occasionally find a chunk somewhere on the property and like the whole world there is always something that can kill me. I know ... minimise the risk etc but following that logic I should have all the brown snakes killed and the redneck spiders and the scorpions and the tiger snakes etc. etc. it's just another thing and I exercise cautious optimism
     
  13. BackyardChook

    BackyardChook New Member

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    That's a pretty common problem for any old home site in Australia. So many outhouses were built of the stuff. If you are worried you could remove what can be picked up, cover the site with thick cardboard, water in well, then compost on top of it and create new clean soil from there. You'll have to be dedicated to no dig techniques forever but in the longterm it's entirely possible to garden over the top of this site and never disturb that soil.
     
  14. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I see that no one has brought up the idea of simply scraping up the contaminated soil and disposing of it.
    That is the only other option I can think of that has not been covered already.

    When we bought our land the home had burned almost as soon as it was finished, we have spent several years working around the bulk of the debris since it is confined to the foundation area. The footing is 29 ft. by 74 feet with "stringers" of concrete between the front and rear pads (had a double wide mobile home on it previously). This winter we will be starting our own home build and I will be removing the contained soil. I plan on getting rid of about a foot of this contaminated dirt, I've already found a dump truck guy and the Land Fill says no worries just going to cost me 65 dollars per dumped load. We don't have any asbestos though, just lots of melted plastic, tar, metal bits and glass. So in that way we are lucky, also I was planning on doing this removal anyway so I can create a better crawl space for when I have to go under house to do maintenance work.

    Here's hoping your tests show no asbestos to deal with.

    Redhawk
     

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