Controversy Continues Over Experimental Abatement Method

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With the “experimental” demolition of a Fort Worth (TX) apartment scheduled for this Thursday, environmental activists and a number of experts are still unsure about the safety of the new method being used to tear down buildings that are laden with asbestos.

Despite concerns by a number of watchdog and other groups, local government officials are allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the new updated “wet method” to take down one building in the now vacant Oak Hollow Apartment complex. Those opposed to the “experiment” have not been able to garner enough support to stop the project, notes an article in the Dallas Morning News.

“A successful test could help pave the way for federal approval of the first new asbestos abatement method in decades and potentially make it cheaper to demolish buildings that have become eyesores and neighborhood dangers nationwide,” the article points out.

However, opponents fear that people in this East Fort Worth neighborhood will be exposed to escaping asbestos fibers, which can eventually cause lung ailments. Most experts believe that the exposure will not be enough to cause concern. Others think the local government is allowing the experiment because the neighborhood is largely made up of minorities.

At a news conference Monday, members of the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers said they had no doubt that the proposed demolition would release asbestos fibers into the air and that concerns them.

“You’re going to have a whole new generation of people who are going to be sick” if the technique becomes widely used, said Terry Lynch, the union’s at-large vice president.

Freddy Polanco, a peer review panelist and member of the Asbestos Advisory Committee for the Texas Department of Health, said this method “has the potential to be safe,” but he’s concerned that if it’s approved for widespread use, contractors who take shortcuts would put people at risk. He also had issues with the cost savings estimated.

“The EPA seems to inflate the cost of the standard NESHAP method to show that this alternative method is a fiscal way to do it,” he said.