2011 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2011 18:15:23 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Asbestos wastes, Ambler, Pennsylvania
From: sharon mccormick <sharmc-1@hotmail.com>

Hello All

As some of you have seen, many of the asbestos factory buildings in
South Ambler have been taken down. My only hope is that the strictest of
safety protocols were in place as the bulldozers were at work bringing
these heavily contaminated buildings down. I avoided the area so I do
not have any information to offer regarding the demo. I am not sorry to
see the buildings go, for they were a hazard due to the disrepair of the
structures and posed a danger to our community. You can view the
condition of the buildings here...
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=asbestos+factory+ambler .

To date, the asbestos manufacturing buildings along Maple Street in Upper Dublin and Whitpain township have not been addressed and according to EPA will not be addressed as part of the BoRit. These buildings are across from the Borit Site and were part of the Keasbey and Mattison Facilities. They were erected by Dr. Mattison in 1904. They were called the Asbestos Shingle, Slate and Sheathing Co , the Century Asbestos Company and the Ambler Asbestos Warehouse. One of the buildings was used to manufacture asbestos fabric such as table cloths and curtains. These buildings were made of asbestos products used inside and out as an advertisement by Dr Mattison as to how beautiful his "asbestos lumber", tiles and shingles could look, guaranteed to last a "Century," according to the advertisements. http://vintageadsandbooks.com/keasbey-and-mattison-company-vintage-1948-century-asbestos-corrugated-ad-q271.html It did.

The waste from these buildings is what makes up the BoRit Superfund site
and many of us suspect that contamination at the factory locations is
not only possible, but probable. I don't understand why the EPA does
not consider this for investigation. Many of us have told the EPA about
these buildings and have shown the agents historical pictures of the
facilities. It seems as though they are ignoring it. Why? Does the
agency want us to continue to live in pollution? This approach to the
problem doesn't make much sense.

The February BoRit CAG meeting was canceled last week due to inclement
weather. To date, the workgroups are working on several issues regarding
the pollution problem.

Discussion regarding a recreational reuse of the contamination
has taken the lead lately, much to my horror. The county representative
to the CAG has spearheaded the discussion to the group. In the summer,
CBA and Whitpain township have asked for language to be inserted into
the Future Reuse document (not completed yet) that acknowledges that
the group is not advocating for citizens to be allowed to recreate on
top of an asbestos waste dump. This requested language has not been
added to the workgroup document yet, to my knowledge. There is a great
concern that a park will be allowed again on top of the asbestos without
the contamination first being removed. This very thing was done before
in the late 1960's on the Whitpain Park and has failed. The asbestos
came up through the layers of gravel and soil and the CDC , after
deeming such activity atop of asbestos waste to be harmful to human
health, recommended that the park be closed in 1984. EPA has not
investigated why the asbestos came up through the cap and I find
it troubling that the county will try to do it again without the toxic
waste being removed or without a serious scientific independent research
as to how safe such an activity would be, especially for the long
term.  To my knowledge, both Whitpain Township and Ambler Borough are
against such land reuse if the contamination is capped in place, for the
insurance and potential liability could pose a significant burden on the

The EPA has told this community for the last 30 years that
playing on the piles is dangerous, now its considered preferable. I find
it admirable that the county would like to restore a community park to
the folks especially in West Ambler. These citizens have been fighting
hard for a park and recreation center for their close knit community for
over 20 years now. No one is listening to them. But why is the county
leadership not advocating to give this deserving community a truly clean
park, one which poses no risk to their health and welfare? Citizens for
a Better Ambler has learned over the years that this can be achievable,
it just takes a little more work and a lot of commitment. CBA is
committed to aide the West Ambler community in acquiring a clean and
safe recreational facility and park that will benefit all of the
surrounding neighborhoods. The only thing holding this up is the
pollution and politics. I still have hope that we will get passed the
politics and start to properly address the pollution and steer the
EPA towards removing it from our beautiful old town. I would not want my
children or my neighbors' children to play on an asbestos park.

The County has negotiated and supported recreational use on top of
asbestos before and just recently, at the historic Valley Forge Park.
http://www.nps.gov/vafo/parkmgmt/asbestosbackground.htm .  Only 3 feet
of dirt will protect the public from the enormous volume of toxic waste
below. Its unfortunate that the county leadership chose to keep the
asbestos polluting the park instead of advocating for its removal which
would have eliminated the long term safety complications, possible
liability and potential tax burden forever. I hope that the County
leadership will come to their senses and encourage the agencies to truly
clean up our beloved Valley Forge. Again this can be achieved, it just
requires a bit more work and commitment. If the county insists that the
pollution remain, I hope they hire asbestos experts to oversee the
maintenance of the contamination and I hope that yearly air tests will be part of the long-term maintenance plan for these are the only ways to
ensure the public's safety. We should not rely on the PADEP and EPA for
they are not asbestos experts. The EPA has been chastised publicly for
their work regarding asbestos over the last 10 years, sometimes from
members within their own agency.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/08/earlyshow/main1985804.shtml This does not give me hope that the agency really knows what they are

EPA continues to place a cap on the BoRit asbestos waste dump, despite
their denials. The side slopes are almost complete. This will leave the
plateaus and the reservoir as the only things that will be addressed
during the actual remedial process of the Superfund. A dirt cap was
placed on the BoRit in the past. It failed. The dirt cap EPA is placing
on the BoRit today will also fail over time, as many dirt caps have
failed on asbestos sites in this country. To date 5612 citizens have
signed a petition favoring treatment and removal of the waste dump, a
permanent solution to the problem. The technology to treat asbestos,
making it harmless, does exist in this country and is available. http://www.aritechnologies.com/. Why the EPA has not utilized
this technology to help solve this problem remains a mystery. Cleaning
the asbestos up can be achieved, it just takes more work and more

Government continues to tell us there isn't any money to clean this site
up properly. I was amazed to find that  EPA has 7 billion dollars
http://www.epa.gov/recovery/basic.html in the Superfund. To date
and since 1972, this enormous pollution problem plaguing Whitpain, Upper
Dublin and Ambler has only received 15 million, not all that much when
compared to other asbestos sites receiving 200 to 300 million dollars.
Why? Something seems wrong with this picture.  Recently, Federal Mogul
has been held to 500 million for asbestos liability.
http://www.asbestos.com/news/2008/04/04/federal-mogul-insurers-may-pay-500m-in-asbestos-damages/ Federal Mogul bought Turner and Newall's assets and liabilities in 2003. The BoRit is a Turner and Newall asbestos dump. So amongst these enormous amounts of money available, why are we still being told there isn't any? In 2009, ARI technologies asked for 600,000 dollars in funding to spearhead a pilot project on the BoRit. Seems like a drop in the bucket when weighed against 7 billion. Why was this denied? It doesn't make sense. So now we know the money is available, the technology is available, the citizens are favoring a permanent clean up, West Ambler would like their park back the pollution is still here. The only thing holding this up is the politics.

I will continue to keep you informed.

Sharon McCormick
Citizens for A Better Ambler
BoRit CAG cofounder


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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