In a move that many see as a money-saving ploy, when the old Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, New York is demolished in the coming weeks, the company responsible for the work has announced that it won’t be abating the large amounts of asbestos inside the facility before the start of the demolition.
That’s an announcement that has many locals concerned about the spread of toxic dust.
“The planned demolition won’t remove asbestos prior to taking apart the building, but instead practice asbestos abatement during the demolition,” noted a press release from the owner of the property.
Though asbestos dust could easily permeate the air during preparation for demolition, as the building comes down, and in the aftermath of the demolition, developers plan to suppress it simply through periodic spraying of water and mist.
Local activists don’t like this scenario and are trying to make their position known. Walter Hang, who works with substance exposure mapping group Toxics Targeting, recently talked to reporters at The Cornell Daily Sun about his concerns.
“It would just be an unbelievable demolition disaster to knock down this building and simply try to wet down this asbestos material in an area which … is the home of thousands of people,” Hang said.
He and his organization have drafted a letter to the mayor, Svante Myrick, requesting that asbestos abatement happen before the demolition. So far, 300 individuals have signed the coalition letter.
Before the library was condemned by the City of Ithaca last month, it was set to go through extensive asbestos abatement. As a matter of fact, proposals show that the building was to be completely enclosed in a wrap that would have kept toxic dust from escaping. Once the building was condemned, however, those plans disappeared.
Hang would like to see the new owner of the property restore parts of the building in order to implement the original abatement plans before doing the demolition.
However, Travis Hyde Properties, which bought the building and property last year, maintains it’s doing the right thing. Owners claim that stabilizing the building is not a possibility and that they were told this is the best and only way to get the job done.
The folks at Toxics Targeting disagree. They claim that the consultant used by Travis Hyde Properties told them that the building could indeed be stabilized.
However, that company – Delta Engineers – would not submit a statement for the Cornell Daily Sun article.
Hang says he also doesn’t trust the air quality monitoring that will be happening throughout the demolition.
“The amount of monitoring is so meager, you can see the dust blowing up the property. You can literally see the material escaping the site,” Hang told The Sun. “There’s no requirement to do post demolition testing.”