Asbestos Discovered in Seized Florida “Drug House”

Current drug laws allow government officials to seize property where controlled substances are known to have been produced and/or sold. This has produced quite the bonanza for some municipalities, but sometimes it creates unforeseen problems and expenses–especially when it comes to old buildings, for reasons of which regular readers of this feature are well aware. Patricia Anthony owned a residence and a rooming house in the Florida community of Haines City.

For years, local police have been making drug arrests at both locations. Last month, the city lost patience with the ongoing nuisance and confiscated both of Anthony’s properties, neither of which–according to photos–seemed particularly well maintained. In fact, the city was going to have the deteriorating residence demolished until asbestos shingles were discovered lurking underneath the stucco. Police Chief Morris West said his department had no knowledge of the asbestos. “The shingles can’t be seen by the naked eye…they are under the stucco,” he said, adding that the local landfill would not allow the city to dispose of the material at its site. Neither would the company hired for the demolition undertake the project without first knowing what variety of asbestos they would be dealing with.

The solution may be to use the “wet” demolition method that recently caused some controversy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (see “Alternative Asbestos Removal Method Questioned” posted 24 December 2007). During this type of demolition, water is used to saturate the asbestos material, thus reducing the amount of friable dust released into the air. Ann Toney-Deal, who is city manager, was quoted as saying, “We want to err on the side of caution here… keep the workers safe and have a removal plan that will allow the landfill to accept the debris.” Haines City has used this “wet method” on other local demolition projects in which asbestos was a hazard. Finding a disposal site may be a challenge, however. EPA rules are very strict about how and where asbestos waste may be disposed of. As for Police Chief West, he’s looking forward to getting rid of the buildings. “This has been a big problem area for us for a long time now,” he says.