Ironically, Soap Lake, Washington, world renowned for the miraculous healing abilities of the mineral- enriched waters, is now the site of an asbestos cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When officials tore down the old Delancey-Houghton Elementary School, there was apparently asbestos in the building that was not properly removed. The rubble that is left behind is contaminated with asbestos, and the EPA is moving in to clean up the hazardous waste. A shell of the building still exists at the site of the partially demolished building, and the EPA reports an asbestos health hazard is only an issue if someone enters the building hulls.
According to an April 6 article in iFiberOne, the EPA will begin cleanup in May at the abandoned site. The asbestos was only discovered after an anonymous tipster contacted the state over health concerns. The EPA then investigated the site and found asbestos in the material.
Many older schools and buildings, built prior to the 1980s, were built with materials that contain asbestos, and still harbor asbestos-containing materials. According to the EPA, asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk. However, the Agency reports that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The former school was built in the mid-1940s.
Risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases becomes an issue when asbestos is damaged or disturbed where asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer that often leaves patients with few treatment options and a prognosis of less than one year after diagnosis.
Prior to destroying the school, officials should have ordered an asbestos abatement project to identify, contain and safely remove any asbestos. It is critical that guidelines such as these are followed before demolishing an old building, like the elementary school, to prevent the toxic dust from becoming airborne. Unlike many environmental toxins, asbestos has a long latency period before symptoms become apparent. It can take between 15 and 60 years before an asbestos-related disease is diagnosed.