February 11th, 2020
10 years since their original publication, the WA Guidelines for the Assessment, Remediation and Management of Asbestos-Contaminated Sites are undergoing a 2020 update.
The original guidelines are widely respected for pioneering consistent procedures and protocols to quantify and manage asbestos in soil. At the time of their publication, most adopted asbestos management standards related to asbestos safety in the workplace, rather than its management as a contaminant in the environment. The National Environment Protection Council endorsed the Western Australia protocols within the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 2013 – a testament to the need for a practical and standardised approach to managing asbestos in soil.
The draft guidelines (released in November 2019) contain the following distinct updates:
- A focus on practicality, for example, acknowledging situations of “small scale or limited surface impact” and management options for low-risk situations, as well as the importance of responsible demolition in preventing asbestos-in-soil contamination at the source.
- An emphasis on the importance of practitioner competency through appropriate training and experience, and the importance of sound conceptual site models to interpret laboratory results in the context of the broader site investigation.
- Discussion of limitations of the widely endorsed laboratory method for asbestos trace analysis, Australian Standard AS4964.
- Potential endorsement of other internationally validated techniques, such as electron microscopy and disposition methods, when accompanied by full justification and approval by relevant regulatory bodies.
Authors of the draft have expressed that intended outcomes for the guidelines are to allow innovation, greater engagement, more effective risk communication and smarter remediation.
Comments and enquiry submissions are due by 6 March 2020 with an estimated mid-year release date.
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