Asbestos find halts work at Fort George site

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Regeneration work was halted at the former Fort George army base following the discovery of traces of asbestos, the ‘Journal’ has learned.

Work at the site which is being transformed into a temporary car park for the City of Culture year and prepared for the construction of a North West Regional Science Park was stopped on Friday last.

Derry’s Urban Regeneration Company Ilex has confirmed that “traces of asbestos” dating from the British military’s control of the site had been found last week.

Ilex’s Fort George Development Manager, Lawrence McCullough, told the ‘Journal’ that laboratory tests had confirmed that the level of asbestos found was not considered dangerous.

“When dealing with concrete in the site we found traces of asbestos. It was found in concrete from buildings put up by the army 30 to 40 years ago.”

He said that samples were taken and “as a consequence work was suspended” pending the results of lab testing.

“The results show that levels found were ‘non-quantifiable’ and well below the threshold level,” Mr McCullough added.

It had been planned to use the concrete as “fill” for the site as part of decontamination remedial work.

“Remedial work involves the placing of layers of stone on the site and we were going to use some of the concrete to fill the site. After additional tests were carried out and trace elements of asbestos were found it was decided not to use any of it for the site.”

He explained that the concrete will now be removed to a section of the site for “future remediation or removal”. “Air monitoring will be undertaken at the site while that is undertaken,” Mr McCullough added.

He explained that the asbestos was nothing that Ilex did not expect to uncover at the site.

“We knew we were going to have to deal with this situation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been found before at the site but health and safety is paramount and when we have concerns about something we have to stop work and investigate.”

Work to create 749 car parking spaces to cope with an expected hike in the volume of vehicles in the city throughout 2013 resumed at the site on Wednesday.

A large part of the 14 acre site is to be used for the temporary car park, which is expected to be open to the public until January next year. The 749 bay car park is due to be completed later this month.

The decontamination of the site, which includes the laying of stone for the car park, will be completed after the car park closes.

Meanwhile, work on the North West Regional Science Park is also due to begin in the spring with an estimated completion date in May next year. In November Environment Minister Alex Attwood gave the green light to plans for the Fort George science park. Approval has been given for a four storey building dedicated to IT and science based businesses.

The park will be part of a cross border project in conjunction with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and is modelled on the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast.