Naturally occurring asbestos in Burlington yet to be addressed by the EPA

21 Jul 2014 by under News

actinolite asbestos 100x100 Naturally occurring asbestos in Burlington yet to be addressed by the EPAIn late 2012, a local resident’s concern prompted U.S. Environmental Protection () investigators to test rocks at a housing development in Burlington, Calif., and they uncovered troubling results – naturally occurring .

Prolonged exposure to asbestos, such as that found in the rocks, has been linked to the development of diseases including mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or, rarely, the heart. There is no known cure for mesothelioma. The investigators that discovered the asbestos in the rocks drafted a report recommending that signs be posted “alerting people to the dangers of asbestos exposure.”

Despite this dangerous discovery, nearby residents were not warned of the asbestos by local, state, or federal officials. Various experts and officials believe this case will shed more light on the difficulties faced when handling situations involving naturally occurring hazards such as asbestos.

Jean Melious, an attorney specializing in environmental and land-use, as well as a professor teaching environmental studies at Western Washington University, described natural asbestos are a grey area for federal agencies, mostly due to the fact it’s not a situation that requires immediate action.

“It’s a lot easier for government to work when there’s a big hue and cry,” Melious said.

“This kind of problem falls in the cracks,” said Andy Smith, an on-scene coordinate for the EPA. Smith claims that no one government agency has complete authority regarding natural asbestos.

The resident responsible for bringing alerting the EPA to the asbestos, Keith Welch, described the situation as frustrating considering how authorities have not taken a more proactive approach with the asbestos.

“It’s one thing to be cautious,” Welch said. “Now that it’s been identified, somebody needs to do something about it.”

According to Joanne Snarski with the Department of Health, state and local regulators can help landowners and developers by making them aware of places where naturally occurring asbestos and other natural hazards can occur.

“There’s a variety of naturally occurring issues that people live with on a regular basis,” Snarski said, adding how it can be difficult to issue specific instructions to landowners. “A lot of people are pretty uncomfortable with people telling you all the things you can and cannot do on their property.”

SF Gate


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