Town, county consider implementing asbestos abatement program

RANGELY | Municipalities all over the nation are facing the problem of asbestos ridden buildings and homes. The high expense of abatement can leave these properties both unable to sell or to be renovated, often causing them to slowly become dilapidated and dangerous. Rangely, in cooperation with Rio Blanco County, is preparing their own plan for dealing with the issue.
More than a year ago the town of Rangely began discussing several tumble down, asbestos riddled homes in the community. Because of the asbestos contamination, tearing these buildings down is a very expensive and drawn out process. To research the issue further the town focused in on one particular 800 square foot home which had been condemned and is known to have asbestos. The estimate for the asbestos abatement came in at a startling $52,000.
The high price of abatement spring boarded Rangely Town Planner Jocelyn Mullen into developing a potential solution. The plan includes an intergovernmental agreement between Rangely, Meeker and Rio Blanco County for the development of an “asbestos abatement team.” The team would be comprised of town employees who would become certified to deal with the asbestos. The creation of the team is estimated to cost $29,500—including labor, training and licensing costs. Rangely’s estimated portion of that price is $15,800. The town believes that if they can complete four asbestos abatements county wide per year the cost of each abatement could be reduced to approximately $7,500 each.
One of the largest costs associated with abatement is the expense of hauling the asbestos materials to the Hayden landfill, which is currently the closest landfill approved to accept asbestos materials. The Hayden landfill charges by the “roll off”’ with the number of “roll offs” depending on the job. Each “roll off”’ costs $800. The total disposal estimate for the 800 square foot home previously mentioned is estimated to cost $17,000. In response to the high disposal cost the County Commissioners are discussing the possibility of developing an in county disposal facility.
In a meeting in August, Mullen estimated that with the combination of local disposal and the ability to manage the project locally she believes the costs could be cut in half.
Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius is hopeful the plan will come to fruition and help, “get those eyesores out of town.” He says there are at least two properties in Rangely that would be good candidates for abatement, plus numerous others countywide.
Due to the serious nature of asbestos, abatement is a complicated process that is regulated by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The practice requires a certified contractor, protective clothing and equipment, enclosure or isolation of dust, monitoring of exposure, proper waste containment and medical surveillance. In rural areas such as Rio Blanco County the price of abatement is even higher when the travel of the contractor is added in.
For now, the town and county plan to continue researching options. They will hold a joint meeting on Nov. 13 to further discuss the possibility of upgrading the county landfill to accept asbestos, a project which Brixius describes as a “critical point” to the team.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material, once heralded for its fire resistance, flexibility and tensile strength properties. Historically the use of asbestos dates back centuries, with the Greeks and Romans using it in candles and ancient Egyptians even incorporating the fibers into their embalming practices.
Beginning in the 1930s the U.S. military used asbestos materials extensively, especially in ship building. It also took off as a common ingredient in home building. In homes built prior to 1980 asbestos is commonly found in floor tiles, roofs, furnaces, plumbing, appliances, fireplaces, insulation and window caulking.
The (EPA) identifies six types of asbestos and while all are considered carcinogenic (or cancer causing), there are differences in their chemical compositions. Asbestos is not considered dangerous if the material is in good condition and undisturbed. However, it quickly becomes hazardous once the material has been damaged, causing fibers to be released into the air where they can be inhaled.
According to the EPA, asbestos exposure is commonly related to three major health concerns; lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, a non-cancerous disease of the lungs. Mesothelioma, the disease most regularly associated with asbestos, is a rare form of cancer, typically found in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart. Symptoms of these diseases often take many years to develop and are considered difficult to identify.
When the negative health impacts of asbestos exposure were discovered lawsuits were filed quickly and numerously, with approximately 9,000 companies identified as asbestos defendants in 2015. The EPA claims that more than 100 companies have filed for bankruptcy citing asbestos litigation claims.