Former asbestos dumping sites may be getting cleaned up, but are they safe after?

It’s undoubtedly nice to see local governments and the Environmental Protection Agency take action and perform cleanup operations on land that had previously been tainted with harmful materials such as lead, arsenic, and asbestos. However, as these areas are being cleaned – and often converted into public space or parks for families to use as a result – some people must be concerned if the cleanup operations being performed are truly enough to make the land safe for children to use and not provide any risk of chemical or asbestos exposure.

The town of Cushing, Oklahoma recently saw the beginning of a substantial cleanup to remove chemical waste and asbestos products from a refinery site sitting on the edge of town. Led by Land O’Lakes – which owns the site – and the EPA, the cleanup of the 200-acre site, which has held everything from arsenic and asbestos to 6,000 gallons of hydrofluoric acid, is set to be completed this fall, according to NewsOK.com.

Upon the completion of the cleanup, grass will be replanted on the site and mowed regularly, according to a project coordinator. While the site will be much safer following the completion of the project, there is still no denying the dangers that were previously on the site.

“When the refinery equipment was in place and deteriorating, there was definitely a health risk,” said Laura Stankosky, the EPA’s project manager for the site, according to NewsOK.

Similarly, a $13 million cleanup of a 17 acre site in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey that used to be the location of an asbestos shingling company was recently wrapped up with the opening of Snyder Avenue Park, a recreation center featuring an artificial turf football field, playground, and sprinkler park. Prior to the cleanup, which took nearly ten years, the site had been laden with oil drums and abandoned warehouses, posing a health risk to the town. The site’s owner had been left with the task of reversing the effects of decades of asbestos dumping on the site.

“It was a nasty place,” Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel Sullivan told the Newark Star-Ledger. While both cleanups in Cushing and Berkeley Heights are proof that people are finally understanding the dangers of asbestos exposure and looking to fix their mistakes, would you feel safe going to a park that you know was a former dumping site for the deadly fibers?