Natural Asbestos Stalls Prison Construction

Builders constructing a new state prison in Grayson County, Va. struck a vein of natural asbestos, stalling the building process until a plan is devised to remove the naturally occurring but dangerous mineral.

“This should not change the overall plan,” said William Ring, the county administrator. “They have to develop a plan to deal with what they have found. The site is still the selected site.”

According to an article in The Journal Reporter, though grading began on the site last fall, contractors just recently noticed a soft brown material which they realized was not ordinary rock.

Work on the site ceased on May 9. State officials tested the material and confirmed that it was asbestos, said Larry Traylor, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections.
“Additional tests to determine if asbestos particles had been present in the air were performed, and those results indicated no asbestos particles present,” Traylor added.

The article reports that Balfour Beatty, the contractor in charge of the prison project, will start work with a limited crew next week to remove or contain the asbestos vein. The company has also posted signs on the site and will begin performing awareness training for people working on the site so as to avoid unnecessary exposure to the toxic mineral, which can break down and release fibers that can be inhaled. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, causing a cancer known as mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lungs.

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