MADISONVILLE, Ky. (2/20/14) — “That’s the Worst We’ve Ever Seen.”
That was the comment yesterday from EPA officials, when they inspected suspected asbestos contamination of the former Goodyear Building (KI Building) located at 200 Commerce Drive in Madisonville.
SurfKY News met with city officials Thursday afternoon about the situation at the building, which has been designated a “Hot Spot” by the EPA.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I have never seen anything like it.” – Frank Wallace
Mayor David Jackson and city officials have been in touch with EPA officials today to get a better understanding of danger to the public.
“Our main concern is whether there is any danger to people or surrounding properties or ambient air at risk,” said Jackson. “The (EPA) answer was that even with heavy wind from the expected storms, there is no air quality eminent risk to the public offsite or adjoining property.”
Jackson was meeting with department heads to establish response protocols in the event an emergency occurs on the site. Wallace noted that firefighters may not be allowed to respond to the building in the event of a fire on site.
“We want to keep city employees safe,” Jackson said.
The safety of S&S Salvage, LLC employees is in question.
Frank Wallace, City of Madisonville Building official, said that he saw no evidence of employees being protected from the asbestos they were working in. Wallace said that employees were walking in four to six inches of friable asbestos as they were dismantling the boilers.
“I asked them if they had gone through proper channels to obtain clearance from the EPA and said that they needed to come talk to us (City of Madisonville) about a demolition permit,” said Wallace.
It was three weeks ago, when Wallace first went on site and noted that S&S employees had performed “extensive demolition” to the facility. They were in the process of tearing down the building to “scrap it out”.
Wallace estimates that employees have had five weeks of heavy exposure to asbestos.
Wallace set up a meeting with the owner and department heads and city engineer to review the company’s plans to coordinate with city utilities. The owner cancelled the meeting the day before “because they thought they had building sold”, said Wallace. “They said they were not going to tear the building down and they weren’t doing anything else to the building.”
Yesterday, someone requested water service to the facility, Wallace said. When the water was turned on, it had leaks. After Wallace went to investigate, he found that workers were again in full-fledged demolition of the boiler building.
“It appeared to me that they had what appeared to be asbestos in every corner and crack and crevice in the building,” Wallace said. “There were even signs that said ‘contains asbestos’ on the piping insulation that they were cutting and taking off.”
Wallace said that owner Tim Smith indicated that he had not heard of demolition permits or Division of Air Quality.
Wallace said that Smith stated that he had worked all over the state and had never heard of the requirements Wallace spoke about. Wallace said he told Smith that once an assessment was made, “we can issue a demo permit”.
Wallace again ordered work to be halted and notified EPA officials at 1 p.m. Dereck Smith, director of Air Quality, and his supervisor came immediately arriving at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.
“They looked, took samples and photos,” Wallace said. “The officials commented, 'That’s the worst we’ve ever seen.' The officials then ordered the site shut down and ordered employees out of the building and off the site. Division of Water started monitoring storm water. The site is to be locked down and secured. The Division of Waste Management and Division of Water are investigating.”
The site will require EPA certified cleanup. A contractor is coming in the morning to do testing of what EPA is calling “a Hot Site”.
Wallace estimates that employees have had five weeks of heavy exposure to asbestos. EPA officials are expected to recommend health assessment of all employees exposed.
Additionally, families of workers may have been exposed to the cancer-causing asbestos.
Workers can carry asbestos on clothing and shoes exposing others.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I have never seen anything like it,” said Wallace.
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