Exclusive: Probe into dangerous asbestos waste dumped underground at Aylesbury cemetery by council workmen

View - Work at Aylesbury Cemetery checking if ground is contaminated in area where more graves will be dug
View - Work at Aylesbury Cemetery checking if ground is contaminated in area where more graves will be dug

A probe has been launched after council workmen secretly buried 40 bin liners of dangerous asbestos in a cemetery.

The ‘serious breach of policy’ has already cost taxpayers more than £11,000 in a big clean up operation and the bill could rise even further.

The asbestos at Tring Road Cemetery was discovered after an employee tipped off bosses at Aylesbury Town Council, which says it was oblivious to the dumping.

The authority has been forced to bring in specialists to dispose of it legally and test the ground for contamination.

It is thought the dumping took place around two-and-a-half years ago, when a section of the Tring Road allotments were cleared to make way for the cemetery extension.

The corrugated asbestos roofs found on the allotment outbuildings were broken up and dumped in 10ft holes in ground which was due to be dug out for new graves.

The council said it will discipline staff involved in the ‘disgraceful act’ and has said it will prosecute if necessary.

Acting clerk at the town council Keith Gray said: “Town councillors are appalled that this rubbish was buried.

“This disgraceful act has so far cost the council £11,292. The council will seek legal advice on claiming this money, and any further costs, back from those responsible.

“It is clear anyone dealing with such material should have disposed of it through appropriate facilities and in accordance with health and safety law, on which all council staff are trained.

“Councillors were not informed at the time and would never have sanctioned this.

“I have been instructed to thoroughly investigate this serious breach of council policy. Investigations will also be made with the relevant authorities regarding possible prosecution to those who made the decision to bury the waste.”

Leader of the town council Mike Smith says they are yet to find out the number of people involved in the scandal, and has not ruled out the possibility of it being carried out for financial gain.

He said: “We don’t know for sure it was council staff, but obviously they do have access to the site and that’s something we’re looking at. Hopefully when we find out who is responsible, we can find out why it was done.

“The council had ample provision in the budget to complete the work properly. To dispose of the waste in this way would never have even been considered an option by those on the council for a minute.

“We are working very hard on the investigation. Nobody has yet been suspended.”

He added the search to find those involved is also to ensure they are screened for any health risks, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Compensation claims for such ailments can cost employers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile,town councillor Chris Adams says he and fellow UKIP member Andy Huxley have even discussed stepping down from the council, as the ‘ongoing saga of things going from bad to worse’ is reflecting badly on them.

He said: “You couldn’t make it up. I think it’s very irresponsible. The public deserves better.

“It’s so embarrassing, it doesn’t reflect well on us at all.

“They’re in a public office. This needs to be sorted out very quickly. It’s just mess, after mess, after mess. These aren’t just small mistakes we’re talking about.”

Meanwhile, Conservatives on the council have described the dumping as ‘scandalous’.

A spokesman for the group said: “Conservatives on the town council were shocked and disgusted when informed.

“We believe residents should be kept fully informed not only because of the asbestos and other items, but because of the financial burden this will place on the council, which is funded by the tax payer.

“We very much welcome the investigation, as there could be serious ramifications in many respects. Our concerns are for anyone who may have handled these materials, especially if they were not aware of the dangers. We demand swift action and for those responsible for these serious breaches, in not only council policy but also health and safety law, to be held accountable for their disgraceful actions.”