Coulsdon residents' anger over asbestos left in street for six weeks by 'negligent' Croydon Council
Outraged families have condemned "negligent" Croydon Council for failing to clear up potentially lethal asbestos for six weeks after it was dumped near their homes.
Safety campaigners have also criticised the inadequate response to dozens of calls from concerned Coulsdon residents about the toxic material, which can cause cancer, that was left in a public alleyway by fly-tippers.
Experts have said the waste material should have been cleaned up within 24 hours and was particularly dangerous because it had been broken up.
But instead council contractors refused to touch the dangerous corrugated asbestos sheets when they visited the alley - where children regularly play - in early August.
The council, finally arranged for the sheets to be collected on Friday after being contacted by the Croydon Guardian and MP Richard Ottaway.
The abestos sheets were not collected for six weeks after being dumped
Furious residents are now considering complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The council apologised and blamed "miscommunication" for the delay, which it admitted was "clearly alarming".
More than 4,500 people a year are thought to die from asbestos-related diseases, caused by the inhalation of dangerous fibres.
It is understood a renegotiation of the contract between the council and the contractor is partly being blamed for the situation.
Contractors only collected a pile of harmless building waste thrown into the alley, where children regularly play, which connects Westleigh Avenue and Chipstead Valley Road, when they first visited.
Dad-of-two Colin Jakeman, 36, of nearby Chipstead Close, said: "Not everyone knows what asbestos looks like. It can be really nasty stuff.
"It has been there for the best part of two months - it is not like the council can plead ignorance. It is a public health hazard - there are drains, kids play there and everyone is still using the alley.
"The council were called and came out and cleared all the rubbish - everything except the asbestos. They obviously recognised it as asbestos and said 'oh no, we're not touching that' and left it."
Judi Yates, 68, of Westleigh Avenue, said: "There are a lot of children along this road, as well as pregnant mums.
"It can be really dangerous, especially when you have got big trucks trundling over it.
"I feel the council have been negligent. We made that many phonecalls and they didn't seem to be do anything."
Colin Jakeman with son Nathan and parents-in-law Judi and Richard Yates
Mrs Yates said a council call handler had told her the authority's contract with its hazardous waste disposal firm had expired and not been replaced.
Another resident, Mario Celiberdi, claimed he had contacted the council several times a week before the asbestos was collected.
A council spokesman denied it had let the contract lapse, but admitted a review of the contract had been "one of a number of factors" in delaying the collection.
Tony Whitson, chairman of the Asbestos Victim Support Groups Forum, said the type of asbestos dumped was usually a low-level danger but could become "like a bottle of poison" when broken.
He said: "All asbestos can be dangerous, so it has got to be treated seriously.
"If asbestos sheets are left they are vulnerable to damage - either by children or anyone else - and that creates a problem.
"It is like a bottle of poison. Leave the top off the bottle, you're fine - take it off, you're in trouble. When asbestos is broken and damaged the fibres can be released.
The asbestos sheet were broken, making them more dangerous
"The reprehensible thing about the council in this case is to leave it there. They should deal with it expeditiously, within 24 hours. It is unacceptable."
Margaret Sharkey, spokeswoman for London Hazards Centre, said: "It is not the heaviest industrial exposure, but there is no safe level and if you were in the vicinity you could have breathed in the fibres.
"It is dangerous and people are right to be worried, especially because kids are more likely to develop the illnesses."
A spokesman for Croydon Council said: "Unfortunately, miscommunication between officers and the contractors led to this flytipping not being removed as quickly as it should, and for this we apologise.
"We can confirm that it has now been safely disposed of."
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