Alternative Asbestos Removal Method Questioned

Last summer, one of the federal government’s private contractors prepared a report on a new, experimental method for the removal of asbestos from old buildings slated for demolition. Considering the performance of private corporations in New Orleans in recent years, the mere fact that the group preparing the report is a private, for-profit corporation–its primary raison d’être being to make profits–should raise a red flag to the average, tax-paying American. It certainly has for the Dallas-Fort Worth activist group Public Interest, which has already blocked another demolition project that would have used this new and highly experimental method of asbestos abatement. Currently, federal law (under NESHAP) requires that all asbestos-containing materials be removed from a building prior to demolition. The new, experimental process, officially designated as “Alternative Asbestos Control” but more popularly known as the “wet,” or “Fort Worth” method, involves dousing the building with foam in order to reduce the amount of potential asbestos dust raised. On one hand, officials are saying that the new method is safer than the old procedures.

Referring to a peer review published earlier this year by the EPA, Fort Worth environmental management director Brian Boemer described the results of earlier tests of the “wet method” as “promising,” saying that “…when you read the peer review in its totality, it is encouraging.” On the other hand, attorney Scott Frost stated that “…there is no doubt that asbestos will be released into the community.” People representing Public Interest pointed out that according to government data, there is no such thing as a “safe level” of asbestos exposure. Fredy Polanco, who works on the Texas Department of Health Asbestos Advisory Board, was cautiously optimistic. His main concern lies in the possibility of contractors taking illegal and dangerous “shortcuts” were the wet method to receive official government approval. He also questioned some of the figures in the peer review: “The EPA seems to inflate the cost of the standard NESHAP method to show that this alternative method is a [more cost-effective] way to do it.