In the small Pennsylvania town of Nanty Glo, population just over 3,000, a former worker has blown the whistle on truckloads of crushed asbestos he says were dumped at the town’s recreation spot.
Nanty Glo’s park, which consists of about 109 acres just east of Lincoln Avenue at the easternmost edge of town, contains adult and children’s pools, a water slide, sprinkler and diving board, as well as a bathhouse, pavilions and various picnic areas. Beyond this common pool area are campgrounds, walking trails, children’s playground equipment and restrooms, as well as horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, and venues for fishing and hunting.
In other words, just about everyone in Nanty Glo has been there at least once. There’s no way to know how many tourists have also taken advantage of the pools and recreation areas.
Nanty Glo is 70 miles due east of Pittsburgh, and its most verbal resident, Tom Kasecky, who worked for the Nanty Glo Sewer Authority for years, says that the borough started dumping old, broken asbestos pipes beside the park and pool in the 1970s. This was in the days before people became aware of the dangers of asbestos, so borough workers commonly crushed the pipes and dumped or buried them.
By the 1980s, health professionals and others had become aware of the health effects of asbestos exposure. Even so, Kasecky says, the dumping continued, with crushed asbestos hidden just beneath the surface of the park, some of it dumped by borough contractors in just the past few years.
In addition to the various pools and recreation areas, there is also a stream nearby that flows into Davis Run, a popular fishing spot. Seeping into this watershed, Kasecky notes, is runoff contaminated with asbestos fibers and sludge.
This all came out at a recent public meeting, and some residents were shocked. Others who knew about the dumping practice said they had been asking the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a cleanup for years, with no success.
According to Kasecky, some landowners also have contaminated fill on their properties, whether by consent or by accident Kasecky did not say, though he did note that landowners “didn’t know what they were getting”.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral used in insulation, floor and (acoustical) ceiling tiles, automotive brake products, and cement water pipes up until about the 1980s, can cause a number of acute or lethal health problems, including asbestosis, various lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma. This latter, which commonly lies dormant for decades before manifesting symptoms, is known as one of the “silent killer” diseases, and those diagnosed are usually given about 18 months to live.
This is not the first time Kasecky has spoken out. In a Feb. 7, 2006 borough council meeting, Kasecky said that when the McCoy Street sewer project was completed, the asbestos pipe that was removed (and replaced by new, metal pipe) was used as fill on other properties.
That project was completed through the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority, and – according to borough representatives – the contractor had made some arrangement with landowners to dispose of the fill. The borough’s attorney was advised to contact the Redevelopment Authority about the project, to determine if the old pipe did indeed contain asbestos.
On April 30, Kasecky also wrote a letter to the (Johnstown) Tribune Democrat asking why the town had such high rates of cancer, and then answering his own question by speculating that discarded/buried asbestos was leaking into the watershed via runoff.
Kasecky also cited the installation of a sewer line to a home, at a cost of thousands to the residents of Nanty Glo, which Kasecky implied marked corruption in local government. Kasecky said it was time for “these people” (borough representatives) to step down, and asked Pennsylvania Governor Rendell to investigate DEP employees working out of Pittsburgh and Ebensburg.
Sources: Cambria County Pennsylvania website, WJAC, Johnstown Tribune Democrat