Asbestos-laden Neighborhood Added To EPA Superfund

Clean Up Starts at Asbestos-laden Neighborhood in Oregon

A neighborhood in South Central Oregon, contaminated by the asbestos remains of an old World War II military barracks, is finally being cleaned up in its entirety, reports a story aired on KOBI Channel 5 News.

epa superfund siteNorth Ridge Estates, a neighborhood in the town of Klamath Falls, Oregon, has long been tainted by the remains of the military base and residents say the clean-up is a long time coming. They watched eagerly this week as workers from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) arrived on scene to ready the area. The DEQ is in charge of the clean-up.

“We’re doing a lot of surveying of the parcels,” said Katie Robertson, the clean-up manager with the DEQ. “We’re doing pre-watering in the area [and] we hope to start excavating later this week.”

The project will involve the removal and replacement of all topsoil and the removal of most of the neighborhood’s trees. Workers will dig down some 2 to 4 feet and remove approximately 300,000 cubic yards of asbestos-contaminated soil.

That’s enough to cover a football field about 150 times, notes the report. Once the dirt is removed, the area will be capped and then new, fresh topsoil will be brought in to replace the contaminated dirt.

The project will happen in 3 phases, with completion slated for the fall of 2018, the DEQ reports.

In the meantime, residents remain in place, though it’s difficult to tell at this point how they’ve been affected by the asbestos in the soil, if at all. North Ridge Estates is a designated EPA Superfund Site, and the agency has annually removed contamination from the area since 2003.

However, the EPA notes, that they have been “unable to mitigate unacceptable risks to residents of the site. Hence, North Ridge Estates was added to the National Priorities List (NPL), the most contaminated sites in the nation, in September 2011.”

The U.S. Armed Forces made abundant use of asbestos for decades. Not only was it found aboard military ships of all types, but many of the buildings on U.S. military bases were built using asbestos-containing materials.

It wasn’t unusual to find asbestos in floor and ceiling tiles, acoustic ceilings, drywall and drywall tape/glue, siding, shingles, and other building materials. The result is that members of the military were exposed, of course, but as in Klamath Falls, when the bases were abandoned and left unattended, the general public may have suffered exposure as well.

Happily, for the people of North Ridge Estates, the toxin should be removed totally by the time the clean-up is complete. Unfortunately, however, it may be too late for those who have already been exposed to the hazardous material via the soil or from debris that was left in the area before the homes were built on the site.

No one can truly tell how the scenario will play out, at least for several more years, given the long latency period of asbestos-caused cancer. Only time will tell.