Lawn Care Workers in Hazmat Suits Due to Asbestos Concerns

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Lawn care workers in Davidson, NC, have been wearing hazmat suits due to asbestos concerns from a former mill nearby. The grass was wetted and the workers wore protective gear because of worries over the highly dangerous chemical.

According to Tim Mascara, one of the residents whose lawn was mowed, “It was humorous because you see guys in full white suits and gas masks on, respirators on, pushing mowers across the yard.”

“Then they caught all the clippings and put ‘em on a truck and hauled ‘em off and tested ‘em,” added Mascara.

The news all started with a Charlotte developer who held a public meeting last fall. The company was proposing an apartment complex to be built on the site of a former North Carolina asbestos mill that operated from 1930 to 1960. Now it’s known as the Metrolina Warehouse.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in with a Superfund program that’s paying $3 million for the testing and clean up. About 20 properties surrounding the area were tested.

Mascara commented that some neighbors are concerned about asbestos exposure. The workers in white suits have brought back fears.

“I think that image captures their emotion in the whole thing, that they’re kind of scared, they’re a little timid,” stated Mascara.

Some neighbors are upset. According to resident John Armstrong, “They’re still mad and angry about the years of not paying attention. Then all this growth coming in, digging up the ground that they knew was infested with asbestos.”

Town Manager Jamie Justice experienced the outrage at a meeting at Gesthemane Baptist Church about two weeks ago.

After the meeting, EPA Team Leader Jordan Garrard replied, “I’m here to clean up these yards, eliminate any exposure pathways. I unfortunately can’t fix what’s happened in the past. I’m only here to help things moving forward at this point. And that’s kind of what I continuously stress.”

The first round of grass clippings and air quality tests came back negative for airborne asbestos. As a result, workers no long need their protective gear for handling the asbestos beginning in May.

Starting at the Davidson Presbyterian Church and then moving on to the nearby houses, the EPA will remove a foot of soil, lay down a plastic barrier, and then fill the top layer with new, clean soil.