EPA Testing Big Tex Site for Asbestos

For the last several days, investigators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been canvassing the “Big Tex” site in San Antonio to determine how much asbestos waste was left behind at the old industrial site.

According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News, workers in “moon suits” have been all over the site, situated on the banks of the San Antonio River, making their way through dilapidated metal buildings full of debris. This is the next step, say officials, in determining what needs to be done to the site in order to begin development of a mixed-use multimillion dollar complex at the location.

Big Tex, named for a grain company that operated nearby, was owned by embattle W.R. Grace and Company, currently in bankruptcy and undergoing trial in a Delaware courtroom to determine the company’s liabilities to asbestos creditors. Grace faces thousands of lawsuits from individuals sickened by asbestos exposure due to Grace’s myriad asbestos-containing insulation products.

“W.R. Grace & Co. now is known to have sent millions of tons of vermiculite ore from its mine in Libby, Mont., to 200 locations throughout the country despite, according to federal court documents, company officials’ knowledge that the ore was tainted with tremolite asbestos,” the article points out.

The San Antonio site was one of the company’s largest plants, processing 124,000 tons of the tainted ore from 1961 to 1989, the article adds.

The EPA crews are currently taking dirt samples from 320 “holes” they’ve made at the site. Shafts underneath the facility are also being tested. The EPA estimates that testing should be done this week. After that, samples will be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. Results should be available in three to four weeks. In addition, testers will return to the site after the results are received to measure how much asbestos dust is kicked up by normal activity.

Developer James Lifshutz hopes that all cleanup tasks will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

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