Asbestos Found After Baltimore Steam Pipe Explosion

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Asbestos was discovered on several cars damaged by the recent explosion of a steam pipe in downtown Baltimore. At least 33 vehicles were affected by the event, and the outsides of four cars tested positive for asbestos.

Asbestos was used to insulate pipes – including steam pipes – in homes, offices, and industrial settings from the 1860s through the 1970s. It was inexpensive and boasted a number of attributes that made it appealing to manufacturers of insulation and other products.

For example, as a lagging product, asbestos reduced and prevented the transfer of heat. It can be shaped, molded, and made into almost anything. Plus, it gives a great deal of strength and longevity to all of the goods that utilize it.

The 15-mile network of steam pipes in Baltimore is managed by Veolia North America. As a result of the explosion, five people suffered minor injuries. The cause is still unknown, but many individuals, especially the 33 vehicle owners, are looking for answers as to why the explosion occurred.

“I’m just playing the waiting game to see who is going to take responsibility,” said Don Muir, who owns a 2002 Honda Accord damaged in the disaster. He described his car as looking like someone “took a shotgun” to it.

Vernell Moutlon’s car was moved from the nearby Holiday Inn without any notification. She talked to six people before finding out her car had been taken to a body shop so it could be cleaned “in accordance with MDE protocol.”

Asbestos was also discovered on the Holiday Inn building. The Maryland Department of Environment suggested workers “erect a scaffolding and shroud to remediate that.”

Veolia spokesman Paul Whitmore said, “We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience last week’s steam line break caused owners of vehicles parked near the scene. We have spoken with all of them and assured them we’re working as fast as we can to determine the cause.”

Two environment department-licensed contractors are working to clean up the site on Eutaw Street between Pratt and Lombard Streets. These contractors specialize in asbestos testing, removal, and consulting. It’s important to hire the trained experts because if any part of the process is not conducted properly, then even more asbestos exposure could occur. It may take several weeks for repairs to be completed at the explosion site.