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The Importance of Acting on Contaminated Soils: The Grenfell Aftermath

16 April 2019

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The Grenfell Tower fire will remain one of the most devastating stories of this decade in the UK with a death toll of 71 reported by the Metropolitan police on the Thursday following the fire[1]. Since the tragedy in June 2017, there have been tens of other problems to face. From homelessness among the survivors to unanswered questions among those that lost loved ones, one thing is certain: many people will never forget this awful tragedy and their pain that will continue.

The most recent of problems to be uncovered from the disaster is the potential danger present in the soils surrounding the Grenfell Tower’s site.

Read more about what’s in the soil and how it should be treated on our blog:

What’s in the soil? 

An independent scientist, Professor Stec, carried out research into the environmental contamination surrounding the Grenfell area and found chemicals that are associated with health problems in humans. These include PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are not one type of substance, but rather a class of chemicals which makes treating them more complex than it seems. PAHs occur naturally in coal, oil and gasoline and are also produced when certain materials are burned such as wood, tobacco and general rubbish[2]. Benzene has also been found in high concentrations 140metres away from the tower[3].

Both PAHs and Benzene have been linked to different cancers, as well as the potential of other harmful effects, however in a recent community update the Government has stipulated that this risk is based upon repeated and long-term exposure and in order to be harmful, they need to be breathed in, eaten or come into regular contact with the skin.  So, can the risk be mitigated by ensuring they are simply avoided?

Is avoidance enough?

The answer to this one is clear in our eyes:

The short-term solution to a broken window might be to board it up, but eventually this window will need to be replaced if you’re to get the use of it again. 

The short-term solution to a pothole in the road might be to put a road cone in the way to encourage its avoidance but eventually this hole needs filled in to ensure maximum safety and minimum damage to car tyres.

Long-term solutions are always the best ones but when human health is at risk, they’re not only the most ideal option but the only essential one.

Contaminated soil washing benefits

The principal benefit of washing the contaminated soils at Grenfell will be the minimized risk to human health however other benefits will come with the process.

Bulk soils can be separated into coarse aggregates, sand and silt size fractions and then washed to remove surface contamination. With high levels of contamination, such as is expected at the Grenfell site, advanced water treatment is often required to remove stubborn and difficult contaminants. This ensures that the decontamination process is as effective as possible.

Once the soil has been treated and is safe, the land can be used again for redevelopment. The clean sand which is extracted can be also be repurposed and put to good use in other applications such as a secondary aggregate or for use in concrete production.

There’s no doubt about it, analysing the soil has been much too slow of a process at the Grenfell site, contamination has remained and there is now a worry that these could have lasting impact to even those living around the area that weren’t involved in the tragedy. The Grenfell Tower disaster has done enough damage and with many families left grieving and homeless, ensuring the soils are treated in the correct manner is one small way of ensuring that the negative impacts don’t continue to increase for decades to come. Acting quickly and decisively through the treatment of these contaminated soils is what’s needed now.

Our contaminated soil washing solutions are making a difference throughout North America, UK & Ireland, Europe and Australia. We are helping customers make land safe again while reducing their costs on landfill disposal in the process.

For more information, visit our contaminated soil washing solution page or get in contact at


[1] The Guardian, (2017)

[2] EPA USA, (2013) [Online] Last accessed 15/04/2019

[3] The Guardian (2019) [Online] last accessed 15/04/2019

contaminated soils