Hampton County, Virginia
In Buckroe Beach, Virginia, a housing development named Parade of Homes has been under assault by a committee of residents, called the Buckroe Beach Bayfront Park Committee, who claim the development is unlawful and no environmental study was ever carried out to determine if the site contained asbestos before the land was sold.
Their claims led, in February, to a lawsuit filed in Hampton Circuit Court against the city, which sold the land and supports the project, and project developer Parade of Homes 2010 LLC. That lawsuit led to the Buckroe Beach City Council voting to repeal the zoning that allowed the project to gain a foothold on the 3.8-acre beachfront site in the first place – a move preempted by the developer’s insistence that his vested rights trump any zoning changes.
Parade of Homes initially planned to put 40 homes on less than four acres, but a finding on March 31 by Marine Chemist Service Inc. of Newport News – of chrysotile asbestos in 30 percent of a sample taken from the site, which once housed Todd’s Cottages, a vacation resort demolished after the city acquired the land in 2006 – has put those plans on temporary hold.
The discovery, at the corner of North Mallory Street and East Pembroke Avenue, now has Buckroe Beach Bayfront Park Committee Eddie Deerfield asking city officials to see a copy of the environmental study that was carried out before the land was sold to Parade of Homes and its owner, Tommy Thompson.
Deerfield also wants to know if any asbestos testing was done before soil was excavated from the parcel of land in preparation for the development. City officials, under the umbrella of City Attorney Cynthia Hudson, have not responded, saying they were still in the process of gathering evidence and documentation. Parade of Homes 2010 Chairman Ricky Edgerton has said he can’t comment until the week of April 11 – 17.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral (amphibole or serpentine) related to the silicate family, which produces long, thin fibers when mined and manufactured (or simply disturbed in its natural setting). Used widely during most of the 20th century, in everything from building materials like floor and ceiling tiles to insulative materials used in walls, around boilers, and in brake shoes and linings, asbestos was largely abandoned in about 1975 as more and more health professionals began to realize the risks it presented to human health.
One of those, mesothelioma, is a slow-acting but generally lethal form of cancer of mesothelial tissues – the protective linings around the heart, lungs and abdominal organs. Presenting symptoms as late as the fifth decade after fibers are inhaled or ingested, the cancer – once diagnosed – has already done a great deal of damage to vital tissue and organs.
Most doctors deliver a prognosis of a year to live, and realize that there is no cure, but may also treat the cancer quite aggressively with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, though primarily to relieve pain and improve breathing.
The difficulty with this palliative care is that most mesothelioma victims are elderly, weakened by the disease, and not likely to easily tolerate such aggressive measures, so caregivers and patients themselves are turning more and more to alternative therapies like Oriental or herbal medicine, meditation, and even aromatherapy for relief.
For the residents of Buckroe Beach near the proposed development, and for the future residents of the 40 proposed homes, the threat is clear. There is no minimum safe limit of exposure to asbestos, say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Cancer Society; a day or a lifetime can trigger mesothelioma.
In addition, all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, including chrysotile, the only member of the asbestos family that falls in the serpentine group. Chrysotile is also the most common form of the mineral, used in about 95 percent of all instances of building material manufacture.
Other types of asbestos include amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite, the latter three sometimes occurring as contaminants in asbestos-containing product.
Sources: University of Toronto website, Hampton Roads Daily Press, OnTopOfCancer.org