Western Grocer asbestos found to be the worst kind

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Asbestos found in the roofing of the Western Grocer Building has turned out to be the friable kind, according to test results by an environmental consulting firm. The removal of the hazardous substance has to be done prior to the demolition, which may delay the project schedule.

Asbestos is believed to cause cancer if inhaled. State law requires special treatment of materials that contain asbestos, especially when it can be scattered into the air.

A test on samples from the building concluded that the bottom layer of the roofing in the west portion of the building has friable asbestos, meaning the substance can easily crumble and release particles into the air. The contaminated area extends about 7,200 square feet.

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The consulting firm will finish the examinations on the rest of the roofs on the east annex and one-story transportation unit &045; another 7,200 square feet &045; in a couple of days.

The roofing material used in the property is a tar-like membrane that is not usually classified as friable, according to the MCPA guideline. But County Maintenance Manager Randy Jensen suspects that it became fragile after many years.

The impact of the asbestos on the demolition process will remain uncertain until the entire test results return, Jensen said.

But County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen said the removal could be completed about10 days after receiving an approval from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The county has already contacted two companies that have a license to handle asbestos, he said.

But a bigger concern to the county is the cost of the removal. If it exceeds $50,000, the county needs to conduct public bidding that would take about six weeks.

The removal also requires an authorization and inspection by the MCPA, and the application process takes at least 10 days, according to Jensen.

Meanwhile, preparations for the building’s demolition continued. Pearl Street running beside the building was closed Tuesday, and the demolition contractor started to place fences around the site for safety. Warning signs in English and Spanish for trespassing will be also added.

The contractor, Austin-based Spinler Construction, will not be able to remove anything that may affect the structure of the building as long as the asbestos remains in the roof.

The building is being demolished to make way for the county’s anticipated judicial center, which would extend the courthouse southward and include a new jail and court facilities.