Residents of Wilton, Maine are relieved that asbestos removal has finally begun at the old textile mill in town.
State and federal officials have long attempted to bring the site into asbestos compliance, but have had trouble with site owners and improper removal of the toxic mineral, the only known cause for mesothelioma and the cause of a number a other illnesses.
In an article in the Kennebec Journal, the owner of the asbestos removal company states that this is the worst site he’s seen in decades, and that locals have good reason to be upset. “I’ve done over 10,000 projects. This is the worst that’s ever been seen,” says Bob Rickett of Abatement Professionals. “This is the absolute worst.”
The owner of the Wilton Mill property, Adam Mack of Wilton Recycling, hired Rickett to finish an asbestos removal job that started a year ago. Shortly after contractor Ryan Blyther started the job, it became obvious that he was not following accepted asbestos removal procedures. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) stepped in and stated that the way Blather was removing insulation that contained asbestos (ripping it out and discarding it on the property) was a danger to the health of workers and local residents because it released toxic asbestos fibers into the air.
Rickett stands by OSHA’s allegations, stating, “It’s the smaller fibers that you can’t see that are the problem.” Rickett’s company is trained an licensed to remove asbestos correctly. According to Rickett, “Blyther was more concerned about the value of what was underneath this material, which was the steel for the piping. Where it landed was where it sat. It was dragged around everywhere.”
Now, Rickett and his team are wearing hazmat suits and respirators to remove the asbestos from the old mill; picking up the larger pieces and using vacuums to get rid of the smaller particles. Once Rickett’s team is finished, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will inspect the site to ensure the safety of local residents.
Wilton Mills is not rare: there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sites in the United States that still contain asbestos, which was used in building materials until the 1980s because of its superior heat resistant and insulation properties.