In North Charleston, South Carolina, the renovation of a former luxury hotel has been halted because officials from the various companies involved in the remodeling failed to obtain a pre-renovation survey of asbestos inside the building.
The former Quality Suites, at 5225 N. Arco Lane, is one of several hotels in Charleston near the Tanger Outlet Mall, a mega-shopping opportunity which also makes the city a prime target for visitors and vacationers.
The hotel was renovated in 2006, and later sold to a consortium of business interests, led by Cox-Shrepp Construction of Charlotte, which serves as project manager. The consortium reportedly plans to convert the building to a Crowne Plaza hotel with 168 rooms.
According to a spokesman from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) – the state agency which enforces the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP, regulations, as set down by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA – contractors planning renovation or demolition of a building must perform an initial asbestos survey.
This is defined as a “thorough” inspection for asbestos containing materials, or ACMs, including Category I and II nonfriable ACMs, via a state-accredited inspector, per the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requirements. The inspector will gather a representative bulk sample of material suspected to contain asbestos. This sample will then be evaluated by a laboratory accredited by either the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), or the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).
Once the survey is complete, notification of intent is mandatory for all renovations (or demolitions) that include identified regulated asbestos containing materials, or RACMs, that may be either disturbed or removed in the process. Other agencies involved in monitoring asbestos may need to be notified as well, and notification must be provided to the relevant agency at least 10 working days before the commencement of work (in this case, the SC DHEC).
Asbestos was in use during most of the 20th century in a wide variety of construction materials, from boiler pipe and furnace duct insulation to floor tiles, floor tile glues, sheet flooring, spray-on wall and ceiling textures, or acoustical ceiling tiles, and roofing felt and shingles.
Asbestos fibers, which are one hundred times finer than a human hair, can be inhaled or ingested and lodge in the mesothelial linings that surround and protect the lungs, heart and abdominal organs.
When this happens, the fibers sometimes cause irritations that can lead to peritoneal mesothelioma, a slow-acting but ultimately lethal form of cancer that, once diagnosed, usually leads to death within a year.
Treatments, which are largely palliative (since there is yet no known cure for mesothelioma), consist of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, or any combination of the three. These can result in improved breathing and reduced pain, but mesothelioma sufferers have to be in good enough physical condition to tolerate the side effects, and many in advanced stages of the disease are not.
As a result, some mesothelioma sufferers choose alternative therapies, like herbal cures, ozone therapy, aromatherapy, massage, light (photodynamic) therapy, acupuncture and meditation. The relative value of these alternative therapies has never been fully evaluated.
The SC DHEC has not mentioned fining the companies in charge of renovating the former Quality Suites, but spokesman Adam Myrick admitted that an enforcement action is possible.
As of June 22, the site remained idle while SC DHEC investigators reviewed the asbestos inspection report.
Sources: Charleston Post and Courier, HotelPlanner.com. Charlotte and Mecklenburg government website