Albion, Michigan - p>Old Union Steel Plant Keeps Neighbors Worried about Asbestos Exposure
Residents who live near the former Union Steel plant in Albion, Michigan simply shake their heads when they look at the shell of a building that was once one of the most thriving businesses in town. Now, it’s a bone of contention in the neighborhood, not only because it looks bad but also because it’s full of contaminants, including harmful asbestos.
According to an article in the Battle Creek Enquirer, the Union Steel plant in Albion – an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site – has caused locals one worry after another. This week, a crew of nine men in protective suits, wearing respirators, are working inside the plant, intent on removing the remaining asbestos inside. Residents wonder if the crumbling bricks and broken windows were enough to keep asbestos fibers inside the structure.
“If I ever get sick, it’ll be because of this,” said Ramona Saldana, who lives near the plant. “I’m concerned about the health and other safety risks that could come of this.”
Just a few months ago, the EPA was on site to clean up a spill of hazardous liquids that had been poured down the drains in the plant and made their way into the nearby Kalamazoo River. Now, officials at the agency say it’s going to cost about $300,000 to address the asbestos removal inside the aging structure.
Jeff Lippert, EPA project manager, says he believes damaged asbestos was left behind when pipes containing the material were carelessly removed. Fibers escaped into the air and could eventually cause health issues for anyone exposed to them. Specifically, asbestos inhalation is known to cause myriad respiratory problems, including the cancer known as meso thelioma.
Saldana and others worry that they could be candidates for the disease. Neighbor James Wyrick says the site has gotten “out of control” and notes that the current owners – who were unidentified in the article – need to take responsibility for clean-up. Instead, they left the job to the EPA.
“I think they should be prosecuted,” Wyrick said. “If you’re responsible, you should try to help clean up your actions.”
In the meantime, EPA representatives are distributing flyers explaining what’s going on inside the plant and letting neighbors know that they aren’t in danger. Still, signs like the one posted outside the plant, reading “Danger: Asbestos: Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard” concern those who live nearby.
“They shouldn’t have bought it if they can’t fix it up,” said resident Toni Simpson about the owners. “They’ve really caused problems for the community.”