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EPA To Remove Asbestos At 11 More Davidson Sites, Including Park

011221 CLT Water Sloan St. 2.JPG
David Boraks
Contractors for Charlotte Water remove asbestos-laden soil from Sloan Street in Davidson during a water main upgrade project in January.

The Environmental Protection Agency will be back in Davidson next week to start another round of asbestos cleanups, including a town park.

The EPA tested 136 properties on the town's historically African American West Side last summer and fall and found unsafe levels of asbestos at 11. The asbestos came from an old mill nearby that made asbestos from 1930 to about 1970.

Officials say waste asbestos was used as fill in yards and driveways and in the town's Roosevelt Wilson Park. It's a concern because if asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled, they can cause cancer and other lung diseases.

At a virtual community meeting Wednesday night, EPA officials described how workers will remove and replace contaminated soil at the 11 sites.

"We're going to wet the contaminated soil before we excavate. And once we remove contaminated soil, we'll do what we call a confirmation soil sample. We'll take a soil sample to make sure we got it," the EPA's Angela Miller.

A layer of plastic fencing will be laid down to mark the depth of the EPA excavation. Then clean fill and fresh sod will be brought in on top, she said.

"We're going to restore areas to their original condition, or sometimes better," Miller said.

Workers will use air-monitoring equipment to check for any asbestos in the air.

Residents who live at or near the affected properties will be offered hotel rooms during the work, which should take two or three days per site, Miller said. Altogether, the work is expected to take six to eight weeks.

In 2017, the EPA spent $3 million on testing and cleanups at 32 properties in the neighborhood around the mill, including Davidson Presbyterian Church. A total of 6,204 tons of asbestos-containing soil were removed.

Additional properties were tested last year after residents raised concerns that more properties were contaminated. This round of removals will include Roosevelt Wilson Park and homes on Mock Circle, Mock Road, Crane Street, Brandon Street and Potts Street.

Miller said even after the latest round of tests, some property owners still have not granted permission for the free tests. She said the EPA would still do additional testing now if requested.

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A 2021 map shows new yards and properties (orange) where the EPA plans to excavate and replace asbestos-contaminated soil. Pink areas were cleaned up in 2017.

Asbestos Found During Water Main Work

Meanwhile, work is wrapping up on removing asbestos-laden soil found during construction of a water main upgrade in the neighborhood.

Contractors for Charlotte Water wearing white suits and respirators have been removing the soil over the past two weeks on Sloan Street, behind the mill. A spokesperson said during Wednesday's meeting there was still a small amount of material left to remove.

Because of the possibility of finding asbestos, Charlotte Water had to develop an "asbestos work plan" and train workers before it started digging in the area. That spelled out how it would handle any contaminated soil. Besides wearing protective gear, workers are also monitoring air quality.

Davidson Public Works and Project Manager Doug Wright said future utility and construction projects on the West Side could be similarly affected.

"Any work that takes place in the neighborhood in the future, where there's excavation to a deep depth such as the Charlotte Water project, this will be a consideration," Wright said.

He said the town will flag any future projects for possible asbestos contamination as it reviews requests for permits.

And the state Department of Environmental Quality is studying whether to declare the West Side as an "asbestos watch area," which would signal to future developers that they need to test for asbestos.

More information about the EPA cleanup, including contacts for additional testing, can be found on the EPA website.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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