Employees in Old County Jail Likely Exposed to Asbestos
The Old Bastrop County Jail (near Austin, Texas) is a historic site, one that’s currently used for a variety of other purposes other than as a prison.
It now houses the county’s Indigent Care program, Prescription Assistance and Civil Process offices, so it’s always full of people.
That’s why it was so alarming when officials announced it’s closing this week because its walls are full of asbestos.
KXAN-TV news reported that the building was shuttered on Tuesday and county employees moved elsewhere.
The other thing the news station reported was that the employees had no idea there was asbestos in the plaster on the walls – plaster that wasn’t in the greatest condition.
On January 29, testing was performed on the building because it was suspected that hazards were present within. There is no indication as to why – once the toxin was suspected – employees weren’t immediately moved from the building.
It took until the test results were released this week to move those workers and close the building. That’s a travesty, say those who make their living there each day.
County Judge Paul Pape says the building was damaged by Hurricane Harvey and that results of the testing showed some plaster containing a “small percentage of asbestos” was loosened and displaced.
“As soon as we found out about this we immediately evacuated the building,” Pape said, adding a statement of concern for the health of employees and the public. Some doubted his sincerity.
Why – since Hurricane Harvey hit in August – did it take until January to do the testing? And why did the testing occur while employees were present?
“The reason we didn’t move them sooner is we didn’t have any reason to move them,” Pape stressed, saying they didn’t know there was a potential asbestos problem at the old jail. “When FEMA first came and said it smells moldy in here, we asked the employees at that time if that’s a problem for them. And no one expressed to me that they were ill or not able to do their work.”
Overall, Pape and his compatriots don’t seem to be worried about any sort of environmental hazards in Bastrop County.
It seems they’d rather close their eyes to the fact that other old public buildings throughout the county might also contain hazardous asbestos.
When asked if they would do a county-wide assessment to deem other builders safe or unsafe, Pape replied, “Well, where would you start looking for trouble?”
“Only when we become aware of an issue do we deal with it. And I think that’s a reasonable and proper way to deal with these environmental issues,” he added.
Those who’ve been working inside the Old Bastrop County Jail don’t agree. They can only hope that the lackadaisical attitude of Pape and others doesn’t result in their eventually getting sick due to asbestos exposure, which can cause cancers such as difficult-to-treat mesothelioma, which often kills its victims within a year of diagnosis.