Gateway Arch renovation stalled by asbestos

This blog has written repeatedly on two themes: the continuing presence of asbestos in the environment and the hazards associated with renovating older buildings in which use of asbestos was common. The latter theme is especially important in North Carolina and other states with large stocks of buildings constructed prior to WWII. Now these two themes have come together in surprising fashion connection with the renovation of one of America’s most modernistic and iconic structures: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Few structures symbolize post-war America as dramatically as the Gateway Arch. Its clean and striking lines almost say “No asbestos here.” But now, a multimillion dollar renovation of the Arch has been slowed down by the discovery of asbestos-containing products in the Arch’s underground museum. While no asbestos fibers have been detected in the public areas of the Arch and the museum, the potential for contamination in the basement remains high. Workers cut into a pipe on Nov. 3 and discovered asbestos insulation. The workers then realized that they had cut into the same pipe one month earlier. This discovery meant that asbestos fibers had been released into the basement spaces during the intervening thirty days. The National Park Service, which manages the Arch and its grounds, believes that 50 park service employees were exposed to the airborne fibers.

The cost of the asbestos clean-up, approximately $350,000, is a miniscule portion of the overall renovation budget of $380 million. Nevertheless, the hazard posed by asbestos is very serious, and no work can continue until the asbestos is completely removed.

Discovery of airborne asbestos fibers in a structure so indisputably modern as the Gateway Arch shows that the substance still poses a serious health threat. Anyone who believes they or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos fibers should seek a competent medical examination. If the diagnosis is positive for an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma or asbestosis may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in handling product liability lawsuits based on asbestos exposure. An attorney with experience in this field can provide a useful evaluation of the case and the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: St. Louis Business Journal, “Asbestos could delay Arch project, add $350,000 cost,” Diana Barr, Jan. 28, 2016