CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO—The Army National Guard Armory is about to undergo a major renovation, which will not only improve the facilities aesthetically but will also remove a potential health hazard: asbestos.
The Cape Girardeau armory, which is home to several National Guard units, was built in 1953. At the time, asbestos materials were extremely common in building products, due to its strength and resistance to fire and acid. Yet asbestos can become carcinogenic if its fibers are disturbed and become airborne.
Asbestos has been found in the armory’s flooring, walls and ceilings. Mark Bonney, who owns Trutest Environmental Solutions, the company which conducted asbestos testing at the site, said that the silicate material is “not really a health hazard in place. It’s when it’s disturbed that it becomes a hazard.” The citizen-soldiers, therefore, have not been at risk for asbestos exposure.
In addition to the asbestos abatement, renovations at the armory will include new energy-efficient lighting, new electrical and heating systems, a state-of-the-art kitchen and a new parking area.
More than 30 rooms are being remodeled, and will provide office space for the 33 full-time personnel employed at the armory. Additionally, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) office, which is a public space, will be updated.
The entire renovation, including the asbestos-abatement portion of the project, is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
Asbestos was widely used between the 1940s and 1970s in building materials such as ceiling and flooring tiles, insulation, cement drywall, and other products such as electrical wiring. It was also used in many military applications, most commonly on board Navy ships and in shipyards.
When asbestos becomes disturbed, it releases fibrous particles into the air which can then be inhaled. These fibers embed themselves in the lungs and mesothelium (a protective sheath surrounding the heart, lungs and stomach), and lead to deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural disease.
Mesothelioma has a long latency period, meaning that it does not manifest until decades after the initial exposure, at which time it is usually untreatable.
An asbestos-abatement company, whose workers have been specially trained and will be outfitted with protective gear, has been hired to undertake removal of the deadly material at the armory. When the work is finished in late May, the facility will be 99 percent asbestos-free. This is well below state and federal allowable levels.