While many schools around the nation are wrestling with their own asbestos contamination problems, the State of Massachusetts–normally one of the most progressive states in the country outside the Pacific Northwest–seems determined to create one.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has given the city of Newton, located just west of Boston, the green light to use asbestos-contaminated dirt as fill for “certain areas” of the construction site upon which the town’s new high school is being built. It was reported that the fill dirt contains only “trace amounts” of asbestos, but that by recycling the dirt instead of disposing of it in a landfill, the city of Newton will save money on the project–estimated to cost $187 million.
Construction began on 14 February, when crews started pouring the foundation for the new school building. Jerry Solomon, designated spokesman for the Massachusetts DEP, described the cost savings as “substantial.” He pointed out that the removal and disposal of the asbestos-contaminated dirt would have cost the city an extra $41 per ton compared to the costs of dumping non-hazardous dirt. Solomon assured the public that the contaminated fill dirt would be used only in “very specific ways approved by the DEP.” This would include grades, leveling of the ground and other work on the foundation of the building.
Solomon was quoted as saying: “We met with representatives of the DEP to discuss our plans to use soil that was found on the site as fill, and whether the testing that was done allowed for it…they said, ‘Yes.'” So… as Sir Lawrence Olivier asked Dustin Hoffman as he tortured him by drilling his teeth in the film Marathon Man… is it safe? According to Dr. Aubrey Miller of the EPA, who has been deeply involved with the asbestos tragedy in Libby, Montana, there is no safe level of asbestos. One resident, identified only as “DT,” commented, “Great–asbestos and shady concrete–can’t wait to see what else…”