EPA to Burn Asbestos Houses

More than two years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, officials are still trying to determine the most efficient way of demolishing storm-damaged homes containing asbestos. Thus far, the process has been costly and tedious, notes an article in The Times-Picayune.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently determined that the most cost-effective way of ridding the city of these eyesores is to incinerate them while monitoring the air to make sure that no toxic emissions escape into the atmosphere.

The article points out that EPA officials convinced parish council members during three months of negotiations that a test of the procedure poses no health risks for residents. However, approval of the plan is contingent on the renewal of a waiver exempting the parish from strict asbestos abatement procedures for demolished homes.

According to Parish President Craig Taffaro, without the waiver, the parish would have to remove all asbestos from the 5,000 remaining homes slated for demolition before they could be torn down.

“That’s a monumental task,” Taffaro said at Thursday night’s council meeting. “If we don’t get an extension, it will cripple our recovery.”
The waiver, however, allows asbestos to be left in homes that are scheduled for demolition, as long as the structures are wetted while being torn down and the debris is sealed in plastic-lined trash bins for proper disposal. The process of wetting means dangerous asbestos dust won’t escape into the air during demolition.

Lab tests have shown that burning asbestos at high temperatures transforms it into a harmless material, said Bob Olexsey, an EPA program manager in Cincinnati.

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