Early in November, asbestos was found on a piece of property in the small community of Frankfort, about 120 miles north of New York City, not far from Adirondack National Park. The property in question is located on an old dairy farm. A few weeks ago, two employees from the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation observed trucks bringing in and dumping loads of construction debris. This led to testing of the soil, which revealed elevated levels of asbestos in the soil.
Right now, there is a pile of building refuse on the property (in an area of less than two acres) that covers an area of 50,000 square feet and is twenty feet in height. Although building materials containing asbestos remain legal (thanks to free trade agreements with China and the recent gutting of the “Ban Asbestos in America Act” by corporate lobbyists), most of the asbestos on the property in question is from older materials taken out of demolition and renovation projects. Since the discovery, hazmat crews have been working to cover the material and fence the property off for the purpose of public safety. This, however, is a temporary, “interim” measure. The “real” cleanup will have to wait for prosecution of those responsible.
Because asbestos is officially classified as a toxic substance under several state and federal environmental regulations, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and NESHAP, the law provides for hefty fines against violators as well as financial liability for cleanup. In addition, individuals have been given prison sentences of up to five years. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn slowly at times. An EPA spokesperson acknowledged that action to date is a “quick and easy way of taking care of the problem right now,” but warned that for the time being, the agency has been authorized only for “interim action.” “We have legal proceedings against the responsible parties… that just takes time to make it through the court system,” she says. “If they’re held responsible (for the hazardous material) they’ll have to pay for the removal of it.”