Construction on former Pennsylvania asbestos products factory causes concern

22 Jun 2017 by under News

AmblerSeal 100x100 Construction on former Pennsylvania asbestos products factory causes concernAmbler, , has a history riddled with , as it was once home to Keasbey & Mattison Co., a building products manufacturing company in the early- to mid-1900s that extensively used . Part of the town is currently designated as a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other parts used to have that designation but remediation has since been completed.

Tensions are currently high in the area over the creation of a 115-unit apartment complex building on the Bast tract, an area of land that once held Keasbey & Mattison Co.’s manufacturing facilities for the creation of asbestos products. Members of the community are concerned that asbestos fibers would become airborne or be washed into a nearby creek during construction, according to The Ambler Gazette.

Remediation efforts in the area have involved capping, placing large amounts of soil, cement and vegetation over asbestos-ridden areas to prevent further asbestos exposure. Others involved remediation and  repurposing old buildings. For example, the company’s former boiler house now houses energy efficient office space.

The Ambler Borough Council approved the Bast tract for apartment construction in 2013 with a clean-up plan approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP). However, Borough Council member Sharon McCormick, the only member to vote against the approval, said the PDEP has no enforcement authority and can only institute fines. She noted a “visible emission” of asbestos when buildings on the tract were taken down in 2010 “but DEP didn’t do anything. Some building debris sat in the street for four years; there was 50 percent asbestos in the rubble.”

It’s that track record that has some residents concerned. Diane Morgan, a member of BoRit CAG, which represents the communities in Ambler surrounding the current EPA Superfund Site, said, “At the end of the day the soil should be covered and it’s not. I’m worried about the evaporation of asbestos-laden dirt.”

She notes this is the first residential construction project on an asbestos waste disposal site in the U.S. “and it should have extraordinary supervision,” she told The Ambler Gazette. “The EPA told Ambler over and over again asbestos waste can’t be dug into,” McCormick said. “Why the same concern is not on the same waste a few feet away [from the Superfund site] makes no sense to me.”

Borough Manager Mary Aversa maintains safety is the No. 1 priority of the project and safety mechanisms are in place to prevent exposure, including watering devices and air sample tests.


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