Little to fear from asbestos, state says of Main Street demolition

by BETH ALTENA

It probably wasn’t a good idea to stand and watch the demolition of a Main Street property said Bob Christmas of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but it’s unlikely it was dangerous. Christmas said it was not determined yet whether there was asbestos in the house or in the siding, but either way believes the possibility of illness from asbestos due to the demolition is very unlikely.

The home torn down on Main Street Friday, April 17 was not properly tested for asbestos prior to demolition. At least three neighbors were upset that they were not notified of the day of demolition and were afraid of contamination in the neighborhood.

According to City Manager Michael Young, the demolition date was decided by the City. An inspector condemned the home due to damage inflicted by the nature of the fire practice. “We told him to get it down now because it’s not safe,” Young said of the property owner.

Young said he believes the property owner went above and beyond what was necessary to tear down the  home by contacting the DEQ. “You don’t need a demolition permit from the DEQ for a residential structure,” he stated.

Christmas, who said the home didn’t fall under his jurisdiction because another Michigan entity handles residential structures, was nonetheless helpful in answering questions on the possibilities of danger.

“If I was next door to it would I be worried? No,” he said. Christmas pointed out that asbestos fibers are very tiny, thirty times thinner than a human hair. He said that most asbestos-related illnesses have come from instances where people are working with asbestos in high concentration.

Christmas said in all demolitions it is common-sense practice to try to avoid “fugitive dust.” This can be any dust associated with a demolition, which is a dusty procedure. Wetting down the structure during demolition is appropriate.

According to Young, in addition to wetting the structure, three days of rain followed.

Christmas said the Michigan OSHA, which deals with worker safety, has become involved. He said testing is being done to find out if the home did or did not have asbestos and he will inform the Squire of test results.

“I have been at many, many of these houses and we have tested and found no asbestos in the air. You don’t want to breathe dust in general, but dust does not mean there is asbestos in the dust,” he said.

Young said, “The owner did everything anyone asked of him, probably at great expense.”

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