Wednesday 4 July 2018

Information every Mill Hill resident should know about the demolition of the National Institute for Medical Research

The Barnet Eye has been following closely the demolition of the National Institute for Medical research. In recent days, we've been passed some very worrying information regarding the demolition. Recently we visited the site and some of the neighbours to discuss some of the issues, especially dust issues and contamination from pathogens, asbestos and isotopes located at the site. Have a look at this video.

So how serious are the risks from the dust being generated on the site? A local residents alerted us to this report on the Council website.

The potential for risk is summed up in section 4.3

The site reconnaissance and desk study have identified significant potential on-site and off-site sources of contamination.  Therefore, it is recommended that an intrusive ground investigation is undertaken to assess the level of risk posed by these identified potential pollutant linkage pathways.

Prior to any intrusive investigation, the presence of radiological and pathological contaminants should be appropriately investigated and remediated where necessary by a specialist in the respective field.  Where identified, remedial measures appropriate to the proposed development will need to be undertaken to the directions of the specialists and to the satisfaction of the regulatory bodies, to render the site suitable for the intended end use.  These works will be separate to the contaminated land aspects detailed in this report. 
Given that there were chemicals, pathogens, radioactive material and other hazardous substances identified, clearly rigorous measures should have been taken to suppress the possibility of dust containing such substances from being allowed to travel, especially with a primary school within 100 yards.

The report contains some extremely worrying statements

It was anticipated in the report, that although waste disposal protocol seemed to have been well managed and enforced, it was inevitable that some unauthorised disposal would have taken place which could lead to contamination hotspots occurring in low points or dead ends associated with the drainage
There was evidence of historical waste tipping, including fume cabinets in the wooded northern area of the site.  There was no evidence that this included the disposal of contaminated waste, although this could not be totally discounted. 
A number of items were recorded externally including:

- A sink (with radiation warning signage)
- A disused fume cupboard
- Remains of suspected fume cupboards (located in woodlands on site).

Aurora had access to a report prepared by Environmental Scientifics Groups Ltd in 2012 describing an intrusive investigation in the garden area adjacent to the main building which revealed some evidence of buried materials such as ash, clinker, glass vials and other metal and plastic debris.  The earlier report had not included analysis for radioactive material. 
- Asbestos from existing structures (Moderate to High)
- Loose asbestos in the made ground (Moderate to High) 
  The mitigations for this was covered in another document, the Barratt dust management plan

Section nine of this document deals with many aspects of what will be done.

General Measures  Plan the site layout so that machinery and dust causing activities are located as far away as is possible from receptors.  Erect solid screens or barriers around dusty activities or the site boundary that are at least as high as any stockpiles on the site.  Fully enclose operations where there is a high potential for dust production and where the site is active for an extensive period.  Avoid site runoff of water and mud.  Keep site fencing, barriers and scaffolding clean sing wet methods.  Remove materials that have a potential to produce dust from site as soon as possible. If they are being re-used on site, cover as described below.  Cover, seed or fence stockpiles to prevent wind whipping.   Ensure equipment is readily available on site to clean any dry spillages, and clean up spillages as soon as reasonably practicable.  Use covered skips. 
As to liaising with neighbours, the plan says

Communications  Display the name and contact details of the person(s) accountable for air quality and dust issues on the site boundary.  Display the head office contact information. NIMR, Mill Hill Construction and Dust Management Plan    Good relations with people living and working in the vicinity of site operations are of paramount importance.   Notification of nearby residents and businesses may include letters, door knocking residents and/or advertisements (e.g. print). In the case of work required in response to an emergency, the local authority and local residents will be advised as soon as reasonably practicable that emergency work is taking place. Potentially affected residents will also be notified of contact details for a relevant member of the project team in the incidence of undue disturbance. Good relations can be developed by keeping people informed of progress and by treating complaints fairly and expeditiously. All complaints will be recorded, identifying cause(s) and appropriate measures to reduce emissions in a timely manner, and record measures taken.  The complaints log will be made available to the local authority when requested.   Records of any exceptional incidents that cause high dust emissions, either on – or off site will be kept in the log book along with the action taken to resolve the situation.  
 It is clear from Mr Bard at Finchley Nurseries that this plan is not being adhered to and no effort has been made to maintain good relations with neighbours, or keep them informed of disruptions.

The final document we look at is the remediation plan from Barratts.

This contains a rather worrying statement, that implies that the identification of hazards is being done as the demolition proceeds

There are a number of areas of potential contaminative impact which will not be practicably accessible for inspection until the demolition stage. These include the areas of fuel tanks and generators, plant rooms and similar infrastructure. Areas of particular interest are illustrated on drawing number 14684GI2/22. However, general vigilance will be maintained throughout the groundworks to identify any previously undiscovered contamination, including evidence of hydrocarbon impact and asbestos, which will be brought to the immediate attention of the Geoenvironmental Engineer for assessment. 
There are rather worrying statements indicating that not all radioactive material on the site have been identified.
The former uses of the site included work with pathogens and radioactive isotopes. It is understood through liaison with Barratt London and from review of third party reports provided via Barratt London that specialist consultants BRD Environmental Ltd and Aurora Health Physics Services Ltd have effectively decommissioned the site through surveying and remediation where necessary to remove any significant risks, and that these works have enabled the surrender of the Environmental Permit for the site, such that it is now considered suitable for redevelopment to a residential end use. The specialists have recommended that vigilance is maintained throughout the groundworks for any indication of potential contamination, such as laboratory waste or radiation trefoils, and the requirement for such vigilance should be communicated to all site personnel. 
This translates to "our contractors have removed what they know is there but there is probably more stuff that we'll find as we go along".

As far as the Barnet Eye could observe and as you have seen from the above video, the dust is clearly not being contained on the site. It is covering cars, homes and everything else. All of the dust suppression is switched off when workmen knock off at  night, even though we've seen high temperatures, wind and dust.

The question must be "Why are Barnet Council not enforcing dust control and noise suppression?". There is a childrens primary school next to the site. I find the whole thing appalling.

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