The United States is now ahead of Russia and South Africa in terms of the percentage of its residents behind bars and in fact leads the world in this statistic. With the demand for jail and prison space outstripping demand, asbestos problems only exacerbate the problem. Such a problem is now being faced by the Michigan community of Bay City.
Renovation of the quarter-century old Matagorda County Jail was underway when tests showed the presence of asbestos in the mastic used to fix floor tiles as well as the lagging used in some of the water and sewer pipes. Precinct Commissioner George Deshotels expressed astonishment that “something built in 1982 would have asbestos problems.” Russ McGown, who is a project manager with Bass Construction, the contractor for the jail renovation, issued an order to crews to stop work and immediately applied for a permit for asbestos abatement from the state of Michigan.
He said that Matagorda County will hire a qualified asbestos contractor for the actual removal, the cost of which will be approximately $70,000. Although that will add to the overall cost of the jail renovation project, Commissioner Deshotels assured citizens that it would not exceed the $6.3 million originally budgeted, because Bass Construction’s winning bid for the project was $1.5 million lower than that figure. The asbestos found in the jail building was not friable, although it could become so had renovation work proceeded. Alternatives to removal–such as encapsulation (sealing the asbestos in resin) were considered, but in the end, all parties concerned agreed that removal would be the most economical and permanent solution. Since obtaining an asbestos permit requires 10 business days and the abatement itself could take up to two weeks, renovations on the county jail building itself will not resume until late January of 2008.