Redevelopment proposal stirs fears of asbestos

This blog has written repeatedly about how the redevelopment or demolition of older buildings stirs up fears of releasing asbestos fibers into the environment. In a large number of these projects, the asbestos is a component of pipe insulation, fireproofing or floor and ceiling tiles, and the asbestos can easily be contained and disposed of. Now, a redevelopment proposal in Davidson, North Carolina has stirred neighbors’ fears of asbestos product exposure for a very good reason: the building proposed for demolition was used as an asbestos factory from 1930 to 1960.

The building was constructed in 1890 and used as a cotton mill until 1930. From 1930 to 1960, the building housed the Carolina Asbestos Company. The building served as a factory for the manufacture of asbestos fabric, tiles and shingles. According to long-time residents of the area, the factory workers threw asbestos waste into a ditch next to the factory.

The building’s three owners inherited it from their father, and they have been looking for a buyer for several years. A number of projects have been suggested to them, but none panned out. The current proposal would replace the factory with a four-story apartment building containing 183 units. Both the owners and the developer are awaiting a decision by the State Department of Environmental Quality regarding clean-up measures and clean-up costs.

The neighbors are very anxious about the presence of asbestos on the site and the unknown consequences of disturbing it. They remember when people who lived near the factory contracted diseases that are now known to be caused by asbestos. They also remember that the factory owners refused to do anything to ameliorate the problem. This case is another reminder that asbestos is still a serious environmental health hazard.

Source: WFAE, “Davidson Mill Redevelopment Unearths Asbestos, Old Tensions,” David Boraks, Jan. 18, 2017