Asbestos clean up has begun at a site in Northwest Portland, Oregon, where a natural gas explosion occurred three months ago, leveling an entire building. The explosion occurred shortly after a construction crew ruptured a gas line near the building located at the corner of Northwest 23rd Ave. and Gilsan St.
“The building’s roof was 35 percent asbestos, and the explosion caused the entire site to be contaminated,” said spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, Matthew Van Sickle.
Despite knowledge of health risks posed by asbestos exposure, many companies still used the material for its fire- and heat-resistant properties. A large number of building materials such as flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, cements, joint compound, and other products still contain asbestos.
Portland has several sites where asbestos exposure occurred. Those who worked with and/or around asbestos-containing materials are potentially at risk to develop mesothelioma cancer .
Handling asbestos must be done with great care and according to state and federal regulations. Licensed contractors must wet the asbestos during abatement to stop the toxic material from becoming airborne. Then the hazardous waste is wrapped in tarps and removed to a special landfill in Wasco County.
If asbestos is not handled correctly, anyone in the vicinity is at risk of inhaling the fibers. This can lead to severe diseases such as mesothelioma cancer, which has an extremely poor prognosis and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to treat.
“While the clean up is going on, there’s going to be ambient air monitoring that’s going to happen at the site to make sure the public is kept safe, the environment is kept safe, and all the workers are going to be certified by the state in handling of asbestos waste,” said Van Sickle.
The businesses in the leveled building have been out of a home since the natural gas explosion occurred three months ago.
“It’s hard to imagine it all just being gone. But it’s all gone,” said building business resident Jason Kundell, who owns Art Work Rebels Tattoo. He’s currently waiting for his insurance claim to go through.
Kundell said, “I know it was an accident. I know no one purposefully tried to sabotage our building, but it really messed up a lot of people. There were a lot of people in that building who depended on going to work every day.”