A South Carolina town is faced with an unexpected expense and potential health issues after asbestos-containing materials were found buried on the site of a former elementary school. Officials say construction debris was found buried behind the old Kellett Elementary School in Seneca, and that now it needs to be removed and disposed of properly.
According to an Oct. 11 story in the Independent Mail, the Department of Health and Environmental Control received an anonymous complaint about the buried asbestos waste. The DHEC found debris “buried in a trench behind the school and some of the material had been exposed.” The school was closed in 2010.
“Oconee County had the debris inspected and it was determined that there was asbestos-containing floor tile located in the buried debris,” said DHEC spokesman Robert Yannity. “Oconee County is in the process of obtaining an asbestos removal contractor to remove the asbestos-containing material from the site.”
Asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, 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.
There are specific federal, state and local guidelines for handling asbestos. The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control reports on its website that “regulated asbestos waste must be handled by properly licensed asbestos abatement personnel and disposed of at a landfill permitted to accept regulated asbestos waste.”
Although the City of Seneca owns the Kellett school site, Oconee County Administrator Scott Moulder reports that he is not aware of any such plan to address the Kellett site, according to the Independent Mail article.
Anyone exposed to asbestos faces a life-long risk of developing mesothelioma, an incurable cancer. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the deadly cancer each year.