2004 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 5 Apr 2004 17:10:25 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Lowry AFB Compliance Order
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) has
recently (perhaps on March 24, 2004) issued a compliance order requiring
the U.S. Air Force to follow DPHE workplans for sampling and remediating
asbestos-contaminated soil on 22 acres, in the Northwest Neighborhood of
former Lowry Air Force Base, still owned by the Air Force. The local
reuse authority and twelve developers of nearby property on the former
base are already following the DPHE workplans, but the Air Force is not,
and it has not agreed to reimburse the other parties for the costs of
addressing asbestos contamination from demolished buildings and
abandoned steam lines "dating from the time when the Air Force owned
and/or operated most of all of Lowry."

The order (#04-03-24-01) summarizes the risk:

"12. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified asbestos as
a "class A", or known, human carcinogen.  Asbestos has been associated
with numerous health hazards, including the following diseases:
asbestosis, pleural abnormalities, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
Gastrointestinal cancers and cancers of other organs (e.g., larynx,
kidney, and ovaries) have also been linked with asbestos exposure in
some studies.  Asbestos-related diseases appear to be associated with a
long latency period of 10-40 years.  Asbestos fibers can enter the body
through inhalation (breathing) or ingestion (eating, drinking); however,
inhalation is considered the primary route of exposure because air
represents a primary medium for asbestos transport and exposure. 

"13. Undisturbed, intact asbestos generally does not pose a health risk.
Asbestos generally becomes hazardous and a health risk when disturbed in
some manner that releases asbestos fibers into the air. Simple
activities such as disturbing bare soils can cause the release of
asbestos fibers, particularly if such fibers are located on or near the
ground surface. Construction activities within the Northwest
Neighborhood, including the excavation, movement and deposition of
soils, and heavy vehicular traffic associated with such construction,
pose a risk of airborne asbestos.   Similarly, activities such as
gardening, digging and rototilling, and children playing, especially in
piles of excavated soil, can create a risk of airborne asbestos.
Moreover, factors such as wind, open windows and doors, and human and
pet traffic in and out of residences, can create a risk of asbestos
fibers entering residences."

While the order applies only to the 22 acres still under Air Force
ownership, it sets the stage for a legal battle that will determine
whether Colorado has the legal authority to require the Air Force to
clean asbestos-contaminated soil to state-defined objectives. In similar
cases in the past, Colorado has either prevailed in court or gaining a
beneficial settlement.

While the cost of cleaning Lowry to DPHE's satisfaction is relatively
minor, compared to the Defense Department's overall budget for cleaning
closed bases, the Air Force appears concerned that it will set a
national precedent that it must address asbestos-contaminated soil, and
that would be costly. Asbestos is just one of several contaminants not
fully addressed in the initial remedial responses at closing military
bases, so accepting a "comeback" requirement could be particularly expensive.

On the other hand, as other communities with recently closed bases - and
those facing closures in 2005 - realize that the Defense Department's
promise to return to remediate , if new contamination is discovered, is
full of holes, they will be much less willing to accept property from
the federal government.



Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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