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Workers Begin Final Cleanup at Former Asbestos Factory

HAMILTON, NJ - The cleanup of a former vermiculite processing factory is entering its final phase after three difficult years.

The removal of asbestos from the factory grounds began in 2004 and has been hampered by flooding and a 2005 fire that destroyed the main building.

For forty years the facility processed vermiculite ore from Libby, Montana which was later found to contain asbestos. When the factory closed in 1994 W.R. Grace and Co. reported little to no asbestos remained on the factory grounds.

This was refuted six years later after an EPA survey revealed asbestos concentrations of up to 40 percent in the soil surrounding the site.

Since then, over 15,000 tons of soil have been removed from the site at a cost of over $2 million. The final phase will involve backfilling areas where soil has been removed and planting vegetation. Officials hope to complete the project by mid-September.

In 2005 the state filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against the company for allegedly supplying false information regarding the concentration of asbestos on the factory grounds.

Attention from the cleanup has led to proposed changes in a number of New Jersey laws involving environmental contamination.

EPA to Conduct Further Testing in Illinois Beach State Park

The EPA will conduct a new round of testing at Illinois Beach State Park to determine if normal beach activities are releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

The concerns about asbestos originate from 1997 when construction materials containing asbestos were found strewn across the beach. A year later a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that the contamination could have come from a variety of sources around the site and that the materials did not contain enough asbestos to pose any significant health risks.

However material has continued to wash up on the park's shores and recent tests have shown small amounts of asbestos fibers in the air. The results have encouraged the EPA to perform a new series of tests to determine just how much asbestos is released by regular park activities and if those levels pose a health risk.

Some of the sources for contamination include:

  • An EPA Superfund site located at a former Johns Manville factory that produced asbestos containing materials
  • Material from the lake that was dredged to curb erosion along the north shore may be contaminated with asbestos
  • Illegal dumping

Next month the park will be shutdown for a number of days while the EPA conducts further testing.