DEQ mill clean-up progresses

Within the next three to four weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hoping to finish cleaning asbestos from an abandoned mill site where demolition left piles of debris contaminated by asbestos.

EPA On-Scene Coordinator Dan Heister hosted a public meeting on Oct. 20 to explain the project to neighbors and answer questions. About a dozen people attended.

“We appreciate your patience for all the noise and distractions we’re making,” Heister said.

The EPA is cleaning up debris from the 2007 demolition of the buildings on the 153-acre property, owned by Western States Reliance Trust and located on the southeast corner of the intersection of 18th and Tamarack streets, 2210 Tamarack St. The demolition stopped in February 2008, leaving debris lying on the ground. WSLRT Managing Trustee Dan Desler is facing air pollution charges in connection with the demolition.

“I think it’s starting to look good only eight days into the cleanup,” Heister said. Crews have mostly been working in the sorter-stacker area.

He said the plan is to go to work in a raised corridor that has pipes wrapped in asbestos.

“We’ll get into there and abate the building the way it should’ve been,” Heister said. “Some of this pipe went into the rubble, which isn’t where it was supposed to have been.”

After the hallway is clear, crews will go to work in the kiln areas, located on the north edge of the property along Tamarack Street.

When the EPA arrived for the cleanup, some asbestos-containing material had blown across the property, Heister said. The farthest the material, which came from the roof, appears to have gone was the southwest corner of the property.

The EPA collected 34 bags of material blown across the property, he said.

The east kiln has the highest levels of asbestos concentration, he said. Concrete there is approximately 25 percent asbestos.

During negotiations with the property owner prior to cleanup, debris piles in the kiln area were covered, Heister said.

“I wish I could invent an asbestos magnet and pull it all out, but it doesn’t work that way,” Heister said.

Asbestos found on the site includes the pipe wrapping, which is the most friable. “Friable” is a scale indicating how easily asbestos fibers may be released into the air.

The material is located throughout the debris, Heister said, but it is the least common on the site.

Some pipes, marked “non-asbestos” prior to WSLRT purchasing the property, contain up to 17 percent asbestos, Heister said.

Roofing material is more common but less friable.

“I’ve never seen material that has as much asbestos as this does,” Heister said. Most of the asbestos is held in a concrete matrix, mixed with tar and other materials that do not contain asbestos.

The material is transported to Coffin Butte Landfill north of Corvallis in 10,000-pound packages called burritos. Material is placed inside two sheets of plastic, lined on the bottom with landscaping fabric to prevent tearing, and sealed with glue.

Contractors working for the EPA take about eight burritos a day to the landfill, where they are buried, Heister said. He projects sending 85 to 100 burritos to the landfill. Crews are working six 10-hour days per week during the cleanup.

Heister warned that people should avoid entering the site or walking along the fence line of the site during the cleanup.

He also warned not to stand at the fence to observe the work.

“Trust me,” he said. “It’s not that interesting.”

The crews monitor asbestos levels in the air continually while keeping the debris wet to keep down the dust.

Officials described the potential health effects of exposure to asbestos and told neighbors they should keep track of when symptoms appeared if they have had them and to tell doctors when potential exposure occurred.

“It won’t be like the same day you’re exposed,” said David Farrer, a toxicologist with the Oregon Department of Human Services. “It would be later, maybe even years later.”

The body has natural defenses against asbestos, including the nose and mucous membrane, Heister said. The longer someone is exposed, the more likely they’ll have problems.

“If someone’s around it all the time, it increases the chance something will reach down deeper within the lungs,” Heister said.

Neither Farrer nor the EPA knows what asbestos contamination levels in the air might have been during demolition, Farrer said.

Neighbor Perry Crocker described working for Willamette Industries 21 years ago when he was on a crew removing pipe marked “non-asbestos.”

It turned out it did contain asbestos after testing, and he brought it home on his clothes.

During the demolition, Crocker said, “we could go outside and smell the weirdest smell.”

He didn’t see any large dust clouds during the demolition, he said, “but I sure smelled something bizarre.”

For information about the cleanup, call the field office at 367-1696.

Information also is available at