EPA Says No Asbestos Left Behind After Massive Warehouse Fire
A warehouse fire in a crowded area of St. Louis has put residents on edge, concerned about what’s left behind in the debris. However, the EPA tells them that there’s nothing to worry about after tests of debris in neighborhoods around the site turned up clean.
A local team from the Environmental Protection Agency headed to the site of last week’s massive fire after the St. Louis Department of Health and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources expressed concern that potential asbestos from materials inside the warehouse was left in the debris or that asbestos dust had permeated the air.
Officials say their only concern was the quantity of smoke remaining and how it would affect those with respiratory problems. The fire department also tested the area and concurred with the EPA team, asserting that – despite huge concerns – there was nothing hazardous on the ground or in the air.
“Tests of 21 samples taken from the immediate area around the warehouse Friday found asbestos concentrations of about 5 to 10 percent in three samples, but each of the pieces was found in building rubble less than 50 feet from the warehouse,” EPA spokesman David Bryan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
No asbestos was found in any of the 50 samples of debris in residential areas south and southeast of the warehouse tested on Saturday, he added.
Neighbors were concerned because debris was scattered far and wide during the blaze, littering streets and yards in areas that were blocks from the fire site.
Residents had been advised not only to avoid the site of the fire but also to dispose of any debris in their yards. The latter advice was likely not wise as most people cannot recognize asbestos materials and may have exposed themselves to asbestos fibers simply by touching asbestos-containing products.
That makes neighbors nervous.
Ashlei Smith has requested more detailed documentation of the all the tests that were completed in the area. She lives with her two children in a home located only about 300 yards from the warehouse.
“I am concerned about what could happen to my kids 20 years from now,” she said. “I just don’t want to leave it to chance,” she told the Post-Dispatch.
This, unfortunately, is a common scenario after a commercial or industrial fire occurs in a building that pre-dates about 1980, when most asbestos use was halted.
Asbestos materials are often left behind after a blaze, and firefighters and other clean-up crews are usually left to sort through the likely-hazardous debris.