A Denver television station recently reported the release of a large amount of asbestos fibers in the Colorado town of Lowry, located between Denver and Aurora. According to the report, a local contractor had started digging near the town’s community garden last month. The work was in violation of a Colorado state regulation requiring that certified asbestos inspectors from the Department of Public Health and Environment be present at any excavation site. In this case, the inspectors did not arrive until three hours after work at the site had begun. A news release from the Colorado DPH more than four years ago expressed some concern over the presence of asbestos fibers on the property formerly occupied by Lowry Air Force Base, where developers had begun the construction of new housing units. Asbestos was used in many military applications up until the early 1980s. In 2003, the CDPHE ordered a halt to all construction and development activities pending tests for asbestos contamination. Air monitors were not available at the Lowry construction site when the contractor began his unauthorized digging activities, so the extent of the airborne contamination is not known for certain.
The contracting company in question, Lowry Assumption, has been ordered to notify residents in the area. In addition, they have been instructed to come up with a satisfactory plan to clean up the contamination, which must be submitted to the CDPHE for approval. In addition to being used in many military, industrial and construction applications, asbestos is also often found as naturally-occurring deposits in rock formations in many places throughout the world. The presence of such “ground asbestos” was recently discovered in a community east of Sacramento, California. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, asbestos deposits can be found in northern Vermont, east central California, the Great Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the Grande Ronde area of Eastern Oregon and several places in the northern Rocky Mountains. However, most of these natural rock formations contain less than 6% asbestos fibers. Only a few deposits, such as deposits near Coalinga, California and in Libby, Montana, have substantial amounts totaling 50% or more.