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A Conneaut, Ohio elementary school was demolished in August and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found evidence of asbestos in the debris. Inspectors arrived at the site a few days after work began to conduct samples, which tested positive.
This demolition at Amboy School occurred without contacting the EPA. Requirements to alert the EPA before construction begins are in place to make sure any possible asbestos is found and removed according to safety regulations.
“Demolition prevented the agency from determining how much material the building might have contained,” said an Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda Oros. “Trace amounts were found at the Amboy School demolition site.”
When asbestos is in good condition, it does not present a hazard, but when it becomes worn or damaged the fibers may flake off and become airborne. At that point, it’s possible for anyone in the vicinity to inhale these toxic fibers, which in turn, can become embedded in the chest.
The chance of developing mesothelioma cancer as a result is in direct proportion to the duration and amount of asbestos exposure that an individual sustains. The U.S. government issued warnings in the 1970s about exposure to this toxic mineral, but many older public buildings, including schools, still contain it.
More specifically, asbestos insulation, asbestos floor ceiling and tiling, and many other building products made use of the mineral due to its strong heat and fire resistant properties. Unfortunately, some 30 million pounds of it are still used each year in the United States.
“Because asbestos was indeed detected, and because the site was already being demolished when they were taken, there is no way of knowing whether the few samples taken were a true reflection of the asbestos content throughout the building or whether there could be hot spots with higher asbestos content,” stated Oros in an email.
The property owner, Rudy Pryately Sr., has already been charged with failure to comply with the order of the fire chief, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, for a fire and safety citation issued in 2014. Now he could face EPA penalties too.
Although construction has halted at the site, particular safety steps will now need to be taken by the contractor to properly dispose of the debris.
“The site will need to continue being treated as if asbestos-containing material is present when removing the material. It needs to be wet down to be sure there are not airborne particles, and to be properly wrapped and taken to an asbestos-licensed facility,” said Oros.