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Activists raise asbestos concerns over demolition project


Activists are fighting an Ithaca, New York developer over the demolition of an old public library, arguing that tearing down the building before removing the asbestos poses a public health risk for residents in the area.

The old Tompkins County Public Library on North Cayuga Street, which was purchased by Travis Hyde Properties in September 2017, was slated to undergo extensive asbestos abatement until in September it was deemed structurally unsound and condemned by City of Ithaca officials. At that point, the developer decided that instead of removing the asbestos after sealing off the building to prevent asbestos dust from escaping and then tearing it down, it would first demolish the building and then suppress the asbestos dust by periodically spraying it with water and mist.

Walter Hang, with the substance exposure mapping group Toxics Targeting, said tearing down the building before abating the asbestos was too risky for thousands of people who lived near by. Frost Travis, president of Travis Hyde Properties, argued that removing the asbestos after the building was taken down was the best way as the roof was unstable and stabilizing the building enough for the abatement was “simply not an option.”

According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, structurally unsound buildings may be demolished without first removing the asbestos, but certain precautions must take place to ensure asbestos remains confined. For safe measure, Travis said that during the demolition, the air will be monitored for asbestos.

Hang says he is still leery of the process.

Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction, shipbuilding and friction materials until the 1980s, when its use was restricted due to its high carcinogenic qualities. Asbestos exposure can lead to serious health risks like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or chest.

Source: The Cornell Daily Sun