Revealed: Wolverhampton Council dumped Civic Hall organ pipes without 'full asbestos checks'

Wolverhampton Civic Hall’s organ pipes were disposed of before full checks were carried out to confirm whether they were riddled with asbestos or not, it can be revealed.

The "priceless" dumped pipes
The "priceless" dumped pipes

The council last week dumped the “priceless” pipes at a landfill site, insisting there was no viable alternative as they were “severely contaminated”.

But the Express & Star can today reveal that the council never took the historic organ apart to check for asbestos, meaning it could not have known the true extent of any contamination or if the pipes were salvageable.

Experts advised the council there was a “strong potential” of asbestos being in the organ’s pipes, but added the only way to know for certain was to dismantle the organ and check – something the council never did after being told it would be “complex” and not “cost-effective”.

It instead had a handful of pipes tested, with specialist firm EDP concluding it “must be presumed” that the organ’s pipes were contaminated.

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Wolverhampton Council confirmed it had had a “section” of the pipes tested but did not dismantle the organ to check every pipe.

The authority was quoted around £250 a pipe, meaning it would have cost them more than £1.5 million just to conclusively check for asbestos. The council was quoted £2m for a complete renovation of the organ, which would have included relocating it from the Civic Hall.

When asked if it had any conclusive proof of asbestos past EDP’s presumption report, spokesman Oliver Bhurrut said: “The assessment of the pipes was carried out by contractors and consultants appointed in relation to the delivery of the full Civic Halls refurbishment works, which includes the removal of asbestos contamination within the building.”

Councillor Wendy Thompson said: “You get the impression that the council did not have a great deal of interest in the organ. They saw it as nothing but a nuisance.

“The pipes should not have been sent to landfill until the council were completely certain they could not have been saved.”

Councillor Jane Stevenson added: “Other organs of this quality and with this pedigree are being restored and cherished around the UK. It was just seen as an inconvenience by the council.”

EDP’s report, presented to the Civic Hall’s renovation contractor Shaylor Group, said: “Due to the location of the organ, in our opinion there is a strong potential for the organ to have become contaminated internally with asbestos fibres due to continuous exposure to the ambient air and disturbance of asbestos materials within the vicinity over a sustained period of time.

“Following assessment and applying HSE (Health and Safety Executive) guidance, we are therefore not able to confirm with any level of confidence that the organ is free from asbestos contamination internally and that this must be presumed to be the case in this instance.”

The council insist any asbestos damage caused to the organ occurred before work on the Civic Hall began in 2016.

Advising the council on what to do to know the extent of any asbestos contamination for certain, EDP added: “To demonstrate with a high level of confidence that the organ does not contain asbestos contamination or that it is of a level that presents minimal risk thus enabling it to be safely dismantled, would require, in our opinion, a very robust sampling strategy. This in itself would necessitate the dismantling of the organ to determine any further definitive conclusions beyond our current presumption.”

However EDP advised the council this was not a “practicable solution” and said disposing of the organ as hazardous waste “may offer the best solution as the most risk free and cost-effective course of action”.

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