Asbestos Slows Demolition of Condemned Ohio Homes

Neighbors and community officials dislike the sight of neglected, vacant homes, concerned that they decrease property values and attract crime. The solution most often touted is to knock them down.

According to the online news site for television station WFMJ, city officials in Warren, Ohio, are finding that it’s not as simple––or as inexpensive––as that. Many of Warren’s condemned homes were built prior to the 1980s and likely contain asbestos. Removing this hazardous material dramatically increases the cost of demolition.

During much of the 20th century, asbestos was commonly added to construction materials due to its durability and fire retardant properties. But it has been known for several decades that inhaling asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems including mesothelioma, a rare and fatal form of cancer.

Undisturbed asbestos is not likely to pose a health risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Renovation or demolition of a structure built with materials that contain asbestos, however, can release tiny asbestos fibers into the air, putting construction workers and others nearby at risk of asbestos exposure.

The City of Warren received $1.3 million of state funding to demolish condemned homes. But with costs to identify and remove asbestos ranging from $4,000 to $25,000 for each site, city safety director Enzo Cantalamessa told WFMJ that the state money would only cover knocking down 150 houses – leaving 300 others to be dealt with later. According to Cantalamessa, only $700,000 of the earmarked funds will be spent on asbestos removal.

Warren officials hope to cut costs associated with asbestos removal by obtaining variances from state and federal regulations, but Ohio law and the EPA’s standards are clear: any proposed demolition site must be inspected for asbestos. If asbestos is found, specific work practices must be followed and the hazardous materials removed and disposed of by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

According to the Youngstown News, in the aftermath of the recession there are approximately 100,000 vacant homes in Ohio, including 1,000 in Warren. U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) appeared in Warren in August to announce legislation providing $60 million in federal dollars for demolitions in the state.

Warren officials hope their share of these federal funds will help to close the city’s demolition budget shortfall and allow neighborhoods to move forward with plans for post-recession community renewal.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and were later diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.