The California Department of Water Resources said Thursday that authorities found the asbestos in what it said were limited areas of the site, according to the Associated Press. Crews are currently working to remove what remains of the more than 1.7 million cubic-yards of debris that accumulated at the bottom of the spillway last month after a large part of it failed.
The Mercury News reports the California Department of Water Resources reported the risk to workers and surrounding areas was minimal, but because some air quality tests came back positive, it is being treated as a contamination site and dust-control operations are being increased.
“Absolutely any time there’s potential for public exposure to asbestos it’s a concern,” Bob McLaughlin, Butte County Air Quality Management District assistant air pollution control officer, said to the news source. “It’s either there, or it isn’t. If it’s there, you do everything you can to minimize dust emissions. You have to assume it’s everywhere (at the site). … You need to be very diligent and proactive in protecting public health.”
Asbestos is a known human carcinogen linked to serious health risks including mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the heart, lungs or abdomen. Exposure occurs when asbestos fibers become airborne and are either inhaled or ingested. To control the likelihood of asbestos becoming airborne at the site, soil, drilling equipment, trucks and truck tires are rinsed regularly, workers are wearing personal air monitors and the frequency of air sampling has increased.