Conflicting Asbestos Reports Put NC Demolition Project on Hold

Posted on September 9, 2017

In February we reported on an asbestos cleanup project underway at an old asbestos mill in Davidson, North Carolina. Now, another small town in North Carolina is faced with an asbestos cleanup project from an abandoned hotel.

According to a March 20 article in the Sun Journal, a former Days Inn hotel in New Bern, NC, that has been vacant is scheduled to be demolished, but first results from testing on whether asbestos is present must be finalized. Asbestos was found in the interior of the building, and workers have been removing the asbestos and debris. However, conflicting asbestos results for the building’s exterior have resulted in a temporary work stoppage.

NC state asbestos regulations required New Bern officials to conduct an outside asbestos assessment of the building after the building’s interior asbestos was removed. A Raleigh company that conducted the test found asbestos in the exterior wall, and are now testing to determine if there is any cross contamination from the interior that resulted in the asbestos.

“The building has been vacant a long time,” said Gary Alexander, owner of the Raleigh company. “It’s possible asbestos in the ceiling tiles could have contaminated the rest of the building.”

A test conducted by another company found no asbestos in the exterior wall, so now the city has requested another test from Alexander’s company to clarify whether asbestos is present. In order to resolve this, the city had to bring in legal counsel to manage the testing process.

“If there is nothing, we will move on to demolition,” said Jeff Ruggieri, director of Development Services for the city of New Bern. “If there is asbestos, we’ll have to reassess.”

Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is proven to cause mesothelioma, a serious cancer resulting from breathing in the asbestos fibers that then become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs. Often called “asbestos cancer,” mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to standard cancer treatments.

The city budgeted $398,000 for the project, but if asbestos is present on the exterior wall, abatement will need to be done to remove that asbestos. With the additional testing and potentially more asbestos abatement work required, city officials anticipate going over budget. They plan to transfer money from different projects instead of asking for more money.

After they receive word regarding the final asbestos test results, the city anticipates about 30 to 45 days to demolish the building.

In order to protect the public and workers from asbestos, demolition projects require strict adherence to asbestos regulations from local, state and federal guidelines.  When certified contractors are used, there are minimal health risks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared that there is no safe level of exposure. It can take decades after exposure to asbestos for symptoms of mesothelioma to develop, leaving anyone exposed to asbestos at a life-long risk of developing the disease.  Approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

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