Asbestos: More concerns over Cwmcarn High School future

Cwmcarn High School Pupils switched to Coleg Gwent's Ebbw Vale site when Cwmcarn High closed

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A company which raised concerns about asbestos leading to the closure of a Caerphilly county school has criticised the findings of further tests that say it is "essentially uncontaminated".

Cwmcarn High School shut in October after a report said asbestos posed a threat to health.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out tests which indicated the risk to pupils and teachers was low.

But firm advising the council says it still has safety concerns.

Santia Consulting Ltd issued a statement on Friday saying the source of the asbestos contamination in the school "still remains in place consisting of substantially damaged asbestos insulating boards (AIBs) in the ceiling voids, damaged AIB in the room heaters and repeated damage of AIB window panels within classrooms".

It has asked for more information about the type of report carried out on behalf of the HSE and whether it has gone far enough.

The HSE said it was involved in two separate strands of work - the investigation into the management of asbestos at the school and the other into research sampling.

'Risks'

The initial report by Santia Asbestos Management Limited had said airborne fibres at the 900-pupil school were 10 times higher than the accepted levels.

However, on Monday it was revealed that a new report carried out on behalf of HSE by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) - which carries out scientific research - that the method of testing carried out by Santia could "overestimate the levels of asbestos fibres as it does not distinguish between asbestos fibres and other fibres such as paper, clothing and skin cells".

The HSE went on to say that any decision on whether the school should reopen "rests with the school governors", adding "it is their choice whether to use the HSL report in any decision making".

The council and school asked for a further survey but it will be three weeks before any decision is made while students are currently being educated 12 miles away at Coleg Gwent's Ebbw Vale campus.

The Santia statement said it was preparing a new report which "will provide more documentary evidence to support the actions taken".

It added: "Both the council and Santia continue to believe that the safety of the children attending the school and those who work there cannot be guaranteed with the foreseeable risks in relation to asbestos still in existence."

A HSE spokesperson said: "It is important to note that there are two separate strands of work, one is the investigation being carried out by HSE into the management of asbestos at the Cwmcarn High School, which is almost complete, and the other is research sampling which is being carried out by HSL without an enforcement role.

"The HSL report was not commissioned by HSE for the investigation and has been undertaken purely as research."

In relation to the investigation, the spokesperson said: "HSE has visited the school premises and spoken with dutyholders about the the system of managing asbestos.

"No enforcement action is required at this time because the system of managing asbestos does not give any immediate cause for concern."

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