Iowa City Foots $2 Million Bill for Asbestos Clean-up
A 19th century-built meatpacking plant, which was once the major employer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has long been one of the city’s biggest eyesores, and local officials are becoming more and more concerned about the hazards the rubble of the old plant contains, including toxic asbestos.
That’s why the city has chosen to spend $2 million in taxpayer dollars to clean-up the mess once and for all.
According to an article in The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, the T.M. Sinclair Plant, built in 1871, was once the crown jewel of the city, employing thousands in its 100 buildings, many of which were used for the slaughter of animals including sheep, cattle, and hens.
Generations of Cedar Rapids natives made their living at the plant, but the business that once helped locals thrive is now merely a danger to all who live and work in the area.
Slabs of old foundation and other asbestos-containing debris sit in the middle of the 30-acre site, officials explained, and though millions of dollars have already been spent on asbestos clean-up (the city has owned the property since 2007), asbestos hazards remain, the article explains.
That leads one to believe that the work wasn’t done right the first time around, and many council members had questions about the process.
“Why doesn’t the previous owner bear responsibility if a building was improperly demolished? And why is the city paying the same contractor millions of dollars twice in seven years to clear asbestos from the same site?” many inquired, citing a “murky” history of what exactly happened.
“It was improperly disposed of,” Rob Davis, the city’s flood control officer, told the council. “It should have been taken to a landfill back then. Instead it was buried there on site. We are removing it to take it to the proper location, which is a landfill.”
“The building was demolished and put inside its basement and covered up with fill,” Davis explained.
The company that owned the property before it came under the jurisdiction of the city, Central States Warehousing, notes that they also paid in the millions to have asbestos materials removed, but it appears that they were only obligated to remove any “immediate hazards”, so lots of asbestos was left behind.
The fact that thousands of pounds of asbestos were contained in the 100 buildings of the Sinclair Meatpacking Company is also proof that workers there were regularly exposed to the toxin.
During the era the factory was built, and during subsequent renovations at the site, asbestos-containing materials were used abundantly and, like in many old factories of all types throughout the U.S., workers came in contact with the material regularly.
Likely, there have been workers from Sinclair who were made sick by asbestos and other toxins inside the plant. Asbestos exposure was commonplace during much of the 20th century and many factory workers eventually succumbed to mesothelioma and other lung ailments.