Asbestos and other hazardous materials have been uncovered at the car park outside of Aboyne’s Bell Woods.
The discovery came to light when an unnamed resident informed Aberdeenshire Council that glass and rubbish had been found at the site, which was formally a landfill tip.
This week, an environmental officer from the council inspected the site and found what was described as “ash, soil, glass, metal and bone fragments... and possible fragments of asbestos.”
The fragments of material recovered from the site have since been confirmed to contain chrysotile asbestos.
The council have now instructed the owners of the car park, Mid Deeside Ltd (MDL), to prevent access to the area.
A community company, MDL were granted planning permission for a car park on the site in 2009 with construction due to begin last December.
A note from a council scientific officer regarding the planning application, dated September 29, 2009, stated: “The applicant (Mid Deeside Ltd) is advised that, should any landfilled waste materials be discovered during development, the planning authority should be notified immediately.”
But a report from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), who are currently investigating the site, states: “to the best of SEPAs knowledge, relevant and appropriate testing of the waste material was not carried out to prove whether the material... is indeed contaminated....”
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Mid Deeside community councillor Wilson Forbes said MDL were “reckless”: “This (discovery) strikes me as an extremely reckless handling of the situation by MDL. In digging the car park they have unearthed the old landfill site. The worry I have is for people’s safety when using it.
“What I’d like to know is if Cllr Argyle (Chair of MDL) has visited the site since the work was done and if he was satisfied it was safe. It isn’t hard to find waste materials there- they’re all over!
Mr Forbes added: “Asbestos is no laughing matter. People who remember village dumps will agree that they were ‘anything goes’ situations. Bottles, ash from coal fires, batteries and everything under the sun was thrown in there.”
The former Aboyne landfill tip closed in 1954.
Prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious illnesses including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
The European Union has banned all use of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products.
Local residents had previously expressed frustration at the car park development with one source telling The Piper that a petition against it had gathered 120 signatures.
The resident said: “When planning was first applied for in 2009, myself and a few other concerned residents went round the Bellwood estate and collected signatures of approximately 120 people who were against the proposed development. This was ignored by MDL. Over the last few months another petition has been signed by over 100 local residents which shows the strength of feeling against these developments has not changed. “
Another source said: “Cllr Argyle is the Chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, Chair of MDL and Vice Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority planning committee. If anyone knows planning it should be him. I just can’t believe he wouldn’t have known that there would be an environmental issue here.”
Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside Councillor and chair of MDL, Peter Argyle responded to the criticisms saying: “ We were of course aware that the site is part of the pre-war Aboyne village tip and that its use as a domestic tip ceased some seventy years ago. The area was planted with sycamores in 1959 although these were felled to allow drainage work across the site in connection with the building of houses in what is now Bellwood Drive in the early 1990s. Further trees were planted once that work was complete.
There had been no reports of asbestos on the site until fragments were found on the 4th March and reported to MDL on the 5th. Arrangements are in hand to have the bunding marked off and warning signs erected and MDL will work with Environmental Health and with SEPA to ensure that the site is safe in the long term
He added: “Before the planning application was lodged in 2009, we delivered a leaflet to every household in the Bellwood area explaining our proposals for a car park, shelters and the small toilet facility There were just two responses; one, from somebody who is now a vocal critic, welcoming the additional car park but expressing concern about the shelters and toilet; the other suggesting that the site of the car park be moved to what is its present location.
MDL acquired the site along with the rest of the Bell Wood back in 2003. It was not seen as a risk to public health at that time.... local people had, certainly until the 1990s, dug into the former tip looking for old bottles... To the best of MDL’s knowledge, at no point in the seventy years since this was an active pit was any material of risk to public health found or any query raised.
Looking forward, we are committed to working with Environmental Health and SEPA to resolve this issue.”