Asbestos in Soil

Asbestos has been a hot topic in the construction industry since the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations came into force in 2016.

Asbestos has been used in a vast number of building products and applications in New Zealand and overseas, and asbestos and asbestos-containing material may also be present in the ground – particularly within fill materials – as a result of poor historical demolition and disposal practices and a lack of understanding of the health implications of asbestos that is not appropriately managed.
The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations, 2016 require that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) identifies asbestos in so
il at a workplace if there is “a reasonable cause for the PCBU to suspect that asbestos-contaminated soil is present.”
In addition, councils will often require that the potential for asbestos being present in soils at a site is considered as a part of a preliminary site investigation under the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011.

Asbestos may be one of several potential contaminants of concern identified on a site, but it presents some unique challenges.
Most contaminants are present within areas where they have been used (eg pesticides in a market garden) or stored (eg fuel tanks). Asbestos may be present in or on the ground as a result of its use (eg abandoned asbestos pipes in the ground, damage to building claddings etc), but more often it’s present as a result of demolition and disposal practices. 

As a result, asbestos is usually not evenly distributed in the soil and there is typically no pattern or trend for where it is encountered.
Asbestos contamination management differs from other contaminants. Asbestos is of concern due to the potential risk of fibre inhalation and so the main aim of asbestos management is to prevent the generation of airborne fibres. 

Asbestos is stable and will remain in the soil indefinitely unless it is disturbed. In many cases, in-situ management by encapsulating the contaminated material on site is a low-risk, cost-effective solution. 

If asbestos-contaminated soil removal is required, a site-specific site management plan is required to ensure the health and safety of workers and nearby site users is protected during the removal work, and for legal compliance.

Babbage Consultants Ltd has staff with significant experience in the investigation, management and remediation of sites with asbestos-contaminated soil.

Call the Environmental team on 09 379 9980 or email: for advice or information.