Asbestos-tainted soil that was excavated from the property that houses Western Massachusetts Hospital in Westfield, Massachusetts has made its way to homeowners in the towns of Granville and Southwick, reports a story aired this week by a local news outlet.
The story, investigated by the I-Team at WWLP 22 TV, reports that 2000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, after being removed from the aforementioned property, was sold to two businesses – one in Agawam and another in Springfield.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection reports that the tainted soil was then distributed by contractors to homeowners in the area for use in their gardens.
Thankfully, the contractors learned of the issue fairly quickly and were able to warn the homeowners within about 24 hours of the soil delivery that it likely contained asbestos and that working with it could be dangerous to their health.
“Over the next two weeks, state workers then covered the piles to reduce asbestos exposure,” the story reports. “It then took about two weeks to clean up the sites. They’re expected to clear out the soil from the businesses by the end of the week.”
The report notes that, fortunately, none of the homeowners had started working with the soil prior to the time the discovery about the asbestos was made.
The MassDEP also notes that the asbestos contained within the soil appeared not to be friable (crumbling and likely to circulate through the air), so they are not terribly worried about health hazards at this time.
Nonetheless, experts report that any amount of exposure to asbestos can be hazardous.
The homeowners are now waiting for the state to replace their top soil, as was promised to them. In the meantime, they are staying away from the area where the soil was deposited, just in case any toxic material remains.
The businesses that accepted the tainted soil are angry and refused to be interviewed for the television report. They note that they did nothing wrong – they had no idea the soil contained asbestos – and they didn’t want their names mentioned in the story.
In the meantime, there was no explanation as to why the soil at the hospital site contained asbestos. Western Massachusetts Hospital is owned and operated by the commonwealth, which gave them the right to do what they wished with the soil on the property.
Built in 1910, Western Massachusetts Hospital is a small facility of about 80 beds that “serves as a medical safety net for many uninsured and underinsured citizens residing in the region.”
The state will complete an incident report by the end of the month and offer further details at a later date.