Asbestos Removal Adds Expense and Time to Urban Rebuilding Efforts

Asbestos was used so widely and for so long that renovation projects to rebuild urban cores incur enormous expenses to remove the deadly fibrous mineral. In Buffalo, a project to demolish Memorial Auditorium and the Donovan State Office Building to make room for urban redevelopment projects on Buffalo’s downtown waterfront has run up $12 million in asbestos removal costs – even before the buildings are ready to come down. The redevelopment project is a $400 million effort to rebuild the Canal Side district in the city’s Erie Canal Harbor neighborhood. More than 1,200 tons of asbestos-contaminated material has been removed from the Auditorium and the Donovan building to date – taking more than 70 tractor-trailer loads to a special landfill in Waynesburg, Ohio , which is licensed to accept asbestos-contaminated waste.

The environmental services contractor handling the asbestos removal says that about 60 percent of the job has been completed. The debris includes asbestos used to insulate pipes, coat walls for fire-control purposes, and to back ceiling and floor tiles. The Auditorium is nearly 70 years old and has been through three major renovations since its construction in 1940, meaning that there are layers of construction where cleanup crews regularly find new pockets of asbestos contamination which must be laboriously removed by hand. The state office building is somewhat more predictable, but also has large amounts of asbestos-containing construction materials. More than 100 certified asbestos remediation workers are on the job daily at the two sites. Despite the costs and unexpected delays, remediation and cleanup efforts should be completed by the end of the year, and the buildings will be demolished before the rebuilding process begins in the spring of 2009.