Frequently Asked Questions on possible soil contamination – updated 15 May 2019

15 May 2019

We know that many residents are worried about possible air pollution and soil contamination in the Grenfell area.

The Council has met with Government Ministers and continues to push for progress on this issue. The Government and Public Health England have assured us that they believe the risk remains low.

Testing and sampling is underway, overseen by the Government and scientific experts to ensure it is comprehensive and gives the community the necessary reassurances.

It is important to say that the NHS have not changed their advice. So, anyone who is concerned should speak to their GP straight away, they will arrange for enhanced health checks to be carried out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is the air around Grenfell Tower safe to breathe?

A. The air around Grenfell is checked continuously and we have not found extra pollution caused by the Grenfell fire which would add to health risks. Like many parts of London, air quality around Grenfell can be affected by pollution due to heavy traffic and gas-fired boilers.

Q. Is the land around Grenfell Tower safe? Are the grass, playgrounds and football pitches around Grenfell Tower safe for children to play in?

A. Air quality monitoring has not identified any cause for concern. However, we understand that local people are worried, so the government is testing the soil around Grenfell for possible harmful pollution.

Q. What are you doing now to check soil safety?

A. The government is managing a two stage programme of additional environmental checks to ensure local residents have the best information about soil safety in their area. Stage 1, which we expect will take about three months from start to finish has commenced and involves a site survey, an initial risk assessment, initial exploratory sampling and identifying historical sources of pollution, which will inform Stage 2.

Q. When and where will the testing take place?

A.  Some initial exploratory sampling has already taken place in close proximity to the Tower and within the cordon. There will be further exploratory sampling, which will take place within the next few weeks and we have asked for views on the locations for these. However, the majority of the sampling will take place in Stage 2.

Q. How will the community be involved?

A. We are committed to making sure local people are involved in the testing process, for example we recently held community workshops at which the community had the opportunity to speak directly to the Stage 1 specialists, AECOM and members of the independent Science Advisory Group. The community has also provided input to help shape the investigation and ensure testing happens in the right places. 

Q. Is it safe to grow fruit and vegetables around Grenfell Tower?

A. You should wash your hands after gardening, working or playing in soil, and wash and peel home-grown fruit and vegetables.

Q: What is the latest on the debris being stored in garages and when will all of it be moved?

A: Bags that have been used to securely store debris from the Tower are being safely removed to a secure location off-site. The removal of bagged debris from garages on the Lancaster West estate will be completed on 23 May.  Daily air testing is ongoing and continues to remain clear.  The Site Management Team is working with Public Health England to make this testing data and analysis available to local residents.

Q: Is the debris being tested for asbestos or other contaminants?

A: A high level of precaution and measures to prevent spread and exposure has been in place the outset.  Loose debris from inside the Tower has been bagged and safely stored within the Grenfell site in areas which are not accessible to the public.  The material inside the bags comes from areas of the Tower badly damaged by fire and is a mixture of different material types.  Any sample would not have been representative. The Site Management Team have developed this approach with specialist Health and Safety contractors, Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. Throughout this process, the debris is being handled safely and carefully monitored. All monitoring to date has not shown any cause for concern.

Q. What should I do if I have concerns about my health?

A. Please go to your GP. They are best placed to assess your needs and refer you to the right specialist care.

Q. What will the enhanced health checks that the NHS is introducing involve?

A. The local NHS is offering enhanced health checks for all North Kensington residents. The NHS has spoken to various local groups about what needed to be included, and these conversations have influenced the development of the service. The checks are carried out through local GP

surgeries and in the community. They include a comprehensive review of overall physical and mental health and testing of breathing through Spirometry, with a particular focus on health promotion and holistic care. If you have any concerns, you should speak to your GP who will assess your needs and refer you to a specialist service as needed.

Q. How is the £50m announced by NHS England for post-Grenfell support going to be spent?

A. This will pay for long-term mental and physical care and health and wellbeing services, including health monitoring and an enhanced health check-up programme. The NHS will continue to work in partnership with the local community to design and deliver services that are appropriate and are able to meet local needs.

Q. What has the Government done since the public meeting in October 2018?

A.

●      It is backing a new testing programme for soil alongside continuing existing air monitoring as well as an effective health monitoring programme via the NHS.

●      It has set up an expert Multi-Agency Partnership which includes the Environment Agency, Public Health England, Kensington and Chelsea Council and NHS England to make sure soil surveying around Grenfell Tower is comprehensive and that analysis will be provided to the public.

●      The Government Chief Scientific Adviser has established an independent Science Advisory Group to quality-check the scientific methodology, testing process and analysis of results at each stage of the environmental testing programme.

●      The Multi-Agency Partnership has developed a two-stage strategy to investigate the potential contamination of land and water resulting from the Grenfell Tower fire.

●      It has procured AECOM to undertake Stage 1. They are independent specialists appointed on the basis of their environmental expertise, chosen from a network of leading experts and overseen by the expert Multi-Agency Partnership.

●      It has appointed an independent ‘Suitably Qualified Person’ in land contamination investigation accredited under the National Quality Mark Scheme, who will critically review and sign-off AECOM’s work

●      It has commenced delivery of Stage 1 of the environmental checks, which is expected to take about three months from start to finish.  

●      It is proactively engaging with the community on the design and implementation of the testing process and undertook two identical community workshops during April. 

●      The NHS is offering enhanced health checks and has run health drop-in events within the local area for those who are concerned about their health.