Cleanup will begin at the former Barwick Mills site in North Georgia after a fire that happened last fall leaving behind exposed asbestos and rubble. The property owner, Drennon Crutchfield, settled with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month.
The agreement says Crutchfield will foot the $850,000 bill for the several-month project. This includes demolishing the burned part of the building and stabilizing the standing portion. Crutchfield had no comments.
“I’m possibly optimistic it could be demolished and completed by Christmas,” said EPA Site Coordinator David Andrews. “I’ve seen stuff like this happen pretty quickly … asbestos jobs, rubble, and demolition. If it goes into the New Year, it probably won’t go past January, based on my experience.”
“This has been a long time coming. The city is excited to see it move forward, begin to see equipment on site, and start the process of cleaning up,” said LaFayette City Manager David Hamilton. The hope is for the cleanup to take much less time than the months-long negotiation.
According to Andrews, “This building was so old … it was about 100 years old … and there was apparently no abatement that had ever taken place. It’s in the ceiling tiles and wraps around the plumbing. That was classic use of asbestos products, and that sort of went up with the fire.”
The initial fire set off with huge gas explosions, creating a fear of asbestos exposure. There was heavy, black, swirling smoke that could be seen from 25 miles away.
As a result, residents within a half-mile of the area were advised to remain indoors and keep their heating and air units off. Those with respiratory problems, the elderly, and students in nearby schools were specifically warned.
It took fire crews a few days to completely extinguish the flames. About 110,000 gallons of the asbestos-contaminated water used was relocated to a facility in Chickamuaga, but 50,000 gallons of water and plenty of rubble still remain at the site.
The fire destroyed the former carpet mill’s southern area of the building, which was occupied by Chattanooga-based company Ashgan Products.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was responsible for conducting the asbestos testing.
“Emergency air monitoring conducted near the site in the hours and days after the fire did not show any asbestos particulates traveling off site,” said Andrews.
The LaFayette planning commission is currently in discussions about what to do with the Barwick Mills site post-cleanup.