Klamath Falls, Oregon - Season one of asbestos work at the North Ridge Estates Superfund site is drawing to a close. The three-year project’s goal is to remove two to four feet of soil contaminated with asbestos from the 171-acre site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is directing the $30 million project.
North Ridge Estates was declared an asbestos Superfund site in 2011. It started in World War II as a military barracks site and eventually become Oregon Tech’s original campus. The buildings contained asbestos, and the residual, leftover asbestos particles required extensive cleanup.
Contractors have been removing the trees with roots growing in asbestos-containing soil on the site. The snow helps decrease the spread of asbestos when the trees fall to the ground. However, the presence of asbestos can still be dangerous whether or not there is snow on the ground.
“While there was snow cover, we did the tree removal that we needed for the next two seasons of work. That way we didn’t have to worry about kicking up dust when falling trees into snow,” said EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Judy Smith.
According to Smith, “We tried to preserve as many legacy trees as we could while taking advantage of the winter work season so that the clean-up could continue.” More trees will be removed for two more weeks and then the soil will be removed starting in April.
Some homes in North Ridge Estates have asbestos soil near, under, or on the property. In order to minimize exposure to the harmful substance, families living in these houses will be temporarily relocated sometime between March and October.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive form of cancer that kills most patients within a year. While some treatments for mesothelioma exist, their effectiveness varies from case to case, and there is no sure-fire cure for the disease.
“Here during the second season we are going to be relocating a few residents while their homes are cleaned up. We have been working individually with those residents to setup relocation and work within their schedule,” said Smith.
Smith noted, “Mostly it’s because we have to remove their septic system or driveway in order to remove asbestos-contaminated soil, so it will be relatively short-term relocations.”
“The ultimate goal is minimize the risk of asbestos exposure so that North Ridge Estates can be a safe and productive part of the Klamath Falls community,” said Smith.
Eight properties were cleaned and about 40,000 cubic yards of asbestos were removed from the Superfund site in 2016. For this upcoming 2017 season, 17 more properties will be completed.