The recent floods in the UK resulted in damage and destruction in so many areas. Heavy and persistent rainfall combined with high tides that saw so many of our seaside towns suffering an insurge of sea water that has not been seen in living memory. The seaside town where I grew up didn’t escape the storms and videos posted on both Facebook and YouTube amazed local people with the ferocity of the sea.
I grew up opposite the beach (which I could see from our third floor living room window) and regularly watched the storms at sea during the winter. This was an enjoyable experience (especially from the warmth and safety of our living room) but I never once saw the sea reach the sea walls below the promenade. However, recent videos show the sea surging in, not just over the sea wall, but over the huge shelters that were built at the same time as the sea wall in the 1920s. I asked around older family members and they had never seen such enormous waves either, not even during the blizzards of 1947 which old-timers still recall. When the weather had calmed down I drove down there for a look at the damage and was astonished to see some of the huge stone building blocks had been ripped from the walls and thrown onto the promenade!
There are similar stories in seaside towns across the UK – promenades and walkways all but destroyed and nearby businesses all but obliterated by the flooding. This means that there are small business owners all over Britain who will be preparing to repair their premises before the spring in order to take advantage of the coming summer’s tourist season. As these premises are surveyed and checked for damage, owners are likely to come across many areas that could present an asbestos risk. Traditionally, seaside business premises are altered and remodelled on a regular basis in order to keep up with the changing face of tourism. This means dividing walls, new counters and worktops have been regularly installed in premises over the years. It’s a pretty sure bet that much of the materials used over the years to refurbish these premises will contain asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
While many seaside business owners may have checked for asbestos in recent years, asbestos is not normally deemed unsafe unless it is disturbed. Flood waters may now have damaged the integrity of buildings and exposed asbestos contaminated flooring, walls and ceilings, breaking down any asbestos present into fine fibres and bringing the material to the surface. Although some asbestos fibres are waterproof, once they dray out they can pose a serious health hazard. The advice to business owners all over the UK is to use caution when clearing up and searching through the debris. If asbestos is suspected, then don’t take any unnecessary risks. Call in a professional contractor who is trained and qualified in the safe removal of asbestos.