The construction of a large overpass project in Fort Myers, Fla., area has come to a halt while Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) investigators test suspicious materials found on the worksite. The Summerlin Road overpass in Lee County is Southwest Florida’s largest road project, according to NBC-2 News. During a recent site visit, county transportation leaders spotted the material, which they believe contains asbestos, an environmental hazard. Asbestos fibers can cause serious illness, including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the chest and lungs, or, more rarely, the abdomen or heart.
NBC-2 quotes John Iglehart from the FDEP as saying, “We take asbestos very seriously because it is such a human health threat.”
The suspected asbestos-containing material was observed among some filler materials on the work site. It is believed the material is leftover water pipes recycled from another project. If the pipes contain asbestos, it will mean they ought to have been properly disposed of, using protective measures in handling a hazardous material. It is illegal to recycle these types of materials and use them in other projects.
According to NBC-2, the project’s lead contractor, Posen Construction, may have improperly disposed of the pipes and then used them in the recycled fill material. The news agency says this is not the first time Posen has been cited for such environmental violations. In fact, they report, Posen Construction has been cited at least 24 times since July 2008 and fined at least $12,000.
The Florida DEP is currently testing the chunks of suspicious material obtained from the job site, but a FDEP investigator says a surface inspection reveals fibers consistent with asbestos. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is released into the air and inhaled, which is a possibility if the materials on the site are crushed or broken.
Until FDEP makes a final determination, the $25-million project is on hold. If asbestos is found, NBC-2 reports, “the next step will be determining who is responsible, how it happened and most immediately – cleaning it up.”
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