Northern stretch of Prestwick Beach reopens
The main northern stretch of Prestwick Beach is reopening to the public today (5 August 2016) following the completion of on-site asbestos removal works and confirmation that the risk to public health is negligible.
The open sections of the beach include the area from the Pow Burn via Kidz Play (beside the old outdoor swimming pool) to the walled area along Maryborough Road.
Work to inspect and remove any asbestos material on the southern stretch of the beach – from Maryborough Road at Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Course heading towards Newton – will continue over the weekend.
South Ayrshire Council closed the beach as a precautionary measure on Friday 29 July after preliminary analysis identified asbestos fibres on small pieces of material found on the beach.
Work to remove any additional material was then undertaken while the beach remained off-limits, and more detailed analysis was carried out.
This confirmed that the material found on the beach prior to the closure – as well as the additional material retrieved by the specialist contractor – contains Chrysotile 'White' asbestos. This is more commonly known as asbestos cement, which is the type of material found in the likes of sheets used for roofing and wall cladding.
Independent experts from Asbestos Analytical Services confirmed that the potential for any asbestos fibres to be released from this material is 'very low'.
Public health experts from NHS Ayrshire & Arran and Health Protection Scotland – who carried out a full risk assessment – also said even if such fibres were to be released on the beach, the risk to beach users is negligible.
Hazel Henderson, Consultant in Public Health for NHS Ayrshire & Arran, added:
"Our risk assessment concluded that it's highly unlikely that users of the beach have been put at risk of serious long-term health effects from this material.
"This type of asbestos is the least harmful to health as it comprises short asbestos fibres that would pass through the body if ingested or inhaled. In the event of someone being exposed to the dust, the risk would be extremely low as a result of one-off exposure in an outdoor marine environment.
"On that basis, we wish to reassure members of the public they have not been put at risk merely by using the beach, and there are no concerns about the beach reopening.
The condition of the material found on the beach so far suggests it was washed ashore at Prestwick Beach after being in the water for a considerable period of time. The Council is continuing to work closely with relevant partners to investigate where it came from.
Mike Newall, South Ayrshire Council's Head of Neighbourhood Services, said: "When the material was initially identified as containing asbestos, we took swift action to close the beach right away. That was purely a precautionary measure to allow us to investigate further.
"We now have sufficiently robust information from both our technical experts and our public health experts that the risk to the public is negligible and, as such, I'm very pleased we can reopen the main stretch of Prestwick Beach to locals and visitors alike.
"Of course, that doesn't mean our work here is done and our specialist contractors will continue to check the remaining section of the beach over the weekend. We will also continue to work with our partners, as appropriate, to get to the bottom of how this material got on to the beach in the first place.
"That does mean there is a likelihood of further materials being washed ashore over time; however, the independent experts' advice is that the risk to the public is negligible if that was to be the case.
"Our advice to the public is that any such materials can be left undisturbed where they are found, and information notices are being put in place to that effect.
"We will be undertaking monthly inspections of the beach for asbestos cement materials over the next three months (September, October, November) and removing any identified material. We will then review the position after that time.
"In the meantime, we will continue to maintain the beach, in line with current practice and our thanks to everyone for their co-operation during the beach closure."
It is anticipated the remaining section of the beach will reopen at the start of the week, once the inspection and analysis is complete.