Officials in Barrington, New Hampshire have held several meetings to determine the best way to dispose of a pile of debris from demolition of the old town hall. The debris is contaminated with asbestos and has been left in a heap on location, adjacent to a playground, raising the public’s concern over safety.
According to a Jan. 7 article in the Union Leader, officials called a halt to demolition of the former town hall when asbestos was discovered. Although Town Administrator John Scruton said they paid to have asbestos removed from the building prior to demolition, more was found when the building was razed. Asbestos was found in the exterior wall and in the ceiling pipe and foundation, according to the Union Leader.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and there are federal, state and local guidelines that must be followed when disposing of the toxic substance. Asbestos does not pose a health hazard unless it becomes airborne. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) reports that breathing asbestos can cause respiratory diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest cavity lining.
The town taped off the debris pile, but nearby residents were concerned that their children were being exposed to the asbestos at the playground and on their way to the bus. Also, located within walking distance of the site, is the library and Early Childhood Learning Center, a school for pre-K and kindergarten aged children, according to the Union Leader.
On Jan. 8, the town leaders announced on the town’s website that they will move forward with burying the rubble. Following is the statement from the consultant recommending the disposal method:
“The Asbestos has been buried on-site since it was applied to the sides of the building foundation. The Asbestos waterproofing on the brick and block in the 2 piles is non-friable and the asbestos fibers are bound up in the waterproofing. If the waterproofing could be removed from the substate by simple water pressure, we would separate the materials to reduce the amount of Asbestos waste. There is very little potential for any fiber release from the waterproofing as is adhered to the brick/block.”
According to the State’s DES website, “materials that contained asbestos were manufactured in local plants throughout New Hampshire for nearly 100 years, such as building textile and paper products.” As a result, “the legacy of waste disposal still plagues local communities, especially Nashua and Hudson where asbestos waste products were given away as free fill to local property owners.”
In order to manage the asbestos waste, the DES maintains two separate rules. Asbestos waste buried after July 10, 1981, is managed under the Administrative Rules Env-Sw 100-2000. Barrington contractors are bound by New Hampshire’s Code of Administrative Rules, “Chapter Env-A 1800 Asbestos Management And Control,” for work on structures containing asbestos.
Once exposed to asbestos, the potential for developing mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, is a life-long hazard. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the deadly cancer each year.