CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The National Guard Armory located at 2626 Independence Street in Cape Girardeau was originally built in 1953, and in 2009, the building is now undergoing a $1.5 million renovation and alteration project that has as its centerpiece the removal of significant amounts of asbestos containing materials that were used in the construction of the armory. Asbestos is classified by the EPA as a known cancer-causing agent, and the Independence Street armory has been plagued for decades by the presence of the extremely hazardous material. Asbestos abatement, however, had not been the original driving force behind the ongoing renovations-plans for a new kitchen and repaving of badly damaged parking areas had been the Guard’s initial inspiration for the makeover.
Apparently, for the past six years, Cape Girardeau Guard units have been in possession of approximately $30,000 worth of new kitchen equipment, but had nowhere to install it. The kitchen now in use at the armory is only 18 square feet in size, and had long ago been deemed to be inadequate for the Guard’s present day needs. Once plans had been drawn for an addition that would house the new kitchen, it soon became obvious that numerous asbestos containing materials were going to be disturbed during the renovation project. Clearly, the asbestos had to go.
“We knew we needed to get that done,” said Master Sgt. Michael Schnurbusch about the asbestos removal. “The architects drew up a plan for an addition to the armory to accommodate the kitchen and from there it grew to a renovation for asbestos removal.” Schnurbusch added that, in general, the armory needed to be brought up to date. “We’re going from 60s and 70s model paneling to drywall, adding new energy-efficient lighting, all new heating and air, all new electrical.” But, most important of all, Schnurbusch added, health-threatening, asbestos-containing materials would finally be removed from the building.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that was once in high demand by a wide variety of industries around the world. Asbestos comes in a variety of chemical compositions, colors, and types, but they all share a number of desirable characteristics. Asbestos can be found in great abundance around the world, making it relatively inexpensive. Asbestos is virtually fireproof, provides superior resistance to harsh chemical corrosives, has a high tensile strength, offers excellent insulating qualities and more.
With all that asbestos had to offer, it soon found its way into everyday products such as building materials, household appliances, automotive parts, and countless other items that are all around us. In the early 1970s, however, it was confirmed that microscopic, airborne asbestos fibers, once inhaled into the lungs, could result in serious illness, including the onset of the very aggressive and inevitably fatal pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused form of cancer. Because of its extreme toxicity to humans, soldiers at the Independence Street armory will be glad to see the hazardous material go.
The Cape Girardeau armory is home to the 1140th Engineer Battalion’s Headquarters Company, Troop Medical Company 2, the 735th Quartermasters, the Recruitment Sustainment Program’s Echo Company, and the Engineer’s Forward Support Company. All of these soldiers have had to significantly alter their routine at the armory during the asbestos abatement and other renovation projects. When the work is completed in late May of this year, over 30 rooms within the armory will have been renovated in a structure that is expected to be 99 percent asbestos free.
The absence of asbestos won’t be what the public will notice about the renovated armory says Scott Satterlee, who is the Senior Project Manager for Image Architects. “It was more or less an upgrade of infrastructure of the armory,” Satterlee pointed out. “It’s going to be more modern, it’s going to have better lighting, better air conditioning, better heating. It’s just going to be a lot nicer.”