Not only is the old Union Steel plant in Albion, Michigan an eyesore, but it’s also filled with toxic substances like asbestos.
Although nine workers in protective suits entered the facility last week to remove asbestos, local residents wonder if the crumbling walls and shattered windows had really kept them protected from the mineral known to cause mesothelioma.
Ramona Saldana, a local resident, says, “If I ever get sick, it’ll be because of this. I’m concerned about the health and other safety risks that could come of this.”
Last spring, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was at the closed plant to remove a hazardous liquid spill that had reached the nearby Kalamazoo River. On top of that, according to officials, removal of the asbestos on the site is going to cost upwards of $300,000.
EPA project manager Jeff Lippert believes that asbestos was exposed when pipes were unsafely removed from the plant. These fibers were released into the air and may cause future health issues for nearby residents who may have been exposed.
Townspeople are concerned that they may be susceptible to mesothelioma in light of their exposure to asbestos. James Wyrick says that he feels the site has grown “out of control”, noting that the current (unidentified) owners should be held responsible for the asbestos removal – not the EPA. Says Wyrick, “I think they should be prosecuted. If you’re responsible, you should try to help clean up your actions.”
At this time, the EPA is distributing flyers to explain the situation to locals and assure them that they are not in any danger. However, this does little to assuage their concerns.