Unsuspecting residents throughout the nation are at risk of hazardous pollutants contaminating their communities. The neighborhood of North Ridge in Klamath Falls, Oregon is just one example of such life-altering discoveries. In 1944, the U.S. Navy purchased over 700 acres of land in the Klamath Falls area to build The Marine Recuperational Barracks for soldiers suffering from diseases from World War II. In these barracks, like most government buildings constructed during that time, several thousands of tons of asbestos were used in materials to build 82 buildings on the property. After the conclusion of World War II, the barracks were torn down without attention to asbestos materials and the property was put up for sale. MBK Partnership of Klamath Falls purchased the land in 1977, where the construction of an expansive residential subdivision was commissioned.
The homes built in what is now the North Ridge Estates Subdivision lie on top of severely contaminated soil. Asbestos exposure attorneys warn those residing or have formerly resided in the area that asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and directly causes development of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
The EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) became aware of the asbestos-containing material in the late 1970s. ODEQ responded to a complaint in 1978 of openly accumulated asbestos debris at the property; staff observed a bulldozer being drive over 4 to 6 acres of demolition debris and described a “great amount of white, fluffy insulation materials being blown by strong winds.”
In September 1979, EPA Region 10 issued Compliance Order No X79-08-14-113 regarding hazardous air pollutants to MBK. The compliance order included findings that MBK engaged in demolition of structures that contained asbestos and worked in an area with asbestos debris causing release of asbestos. The asbestos release resulted from failing to remove ACM from buildings before their demolition as required by state and federal air quality regulations, and failing to contain ACM according to disposal practices in those regulations.
In 2001, ODEQ received a complaint about asbestos pipe insulation exposed to the atmosphere on North Ridge Drive. Analysis of these pipes showed that the material was 90% asbestos. In this year, over 57 tons of asbestos-containing material was removed from 30 lots, where numerous other contaminations were observed. MBK continued to sell lots until 2002. In January 2006, a settlement between the subdivision homeowners and MBK was announced, whereby MBK agreed to compensate the homeowners to allow them to relocate to new, permanent residences.
EPA conducted several more emergency removals between 2005 and 2009. While the removals were successful in consolidating large volumes of asbestos- containing materials (ACM) and associated soils into onsite repositories and reducing the amount of friable ACM (materials easily damaged) at the surface, new ACM surfaced each year because of frost heave and erosion. The removals were not able to permanently eliminate unacceptable risks at the affected properties.
In 2010, Oregon Governor Kulongoski sent a letter to EPA nominating the site for placement on the National Priorities List, which catalogues the most contaminated sites in the nation ; the site was listed in 2011 and is now eligible for federal funding to conduction cleanup of the contamination on the site.
Because of the inaccessibility of contaminated materials as previously
described, subsurface contaminated materials will likely remain. Treatment
of excavated ACM and asbestos-contaminated soil would not negate the need
for land use controls to prevent human contact with the contaminated materials
in the subsurface, ongoing monitoring (including inspections and sampling),
and 5-year site reviews. Thus treatment does not gain efficiencies or
savings in terms of long-term protectiveness. As noted above, a statutory
review will be conducted within five years after initiation of remedial
action to ensure that the remedy is, or will be, protective of human health
and the environment. Subsequent five year site reviews will also be performed
since contamination posing risks will continue to remain in the subsurface
regardless of the remedy selected for the site.
For more information regarding asbestos exposure in this area, contact:
Site Manager Denise Baker-Kircher (206) 553-4303
Community Involvement Coordinator: Judy Smith, (503) 326-6994 Toxicologist: Julie Wroble, (206) 553-1079 ODEQ Quality Project Manager: Cliff Walkey, (541) 633-2003
If you lived in this area and developed any type of asbestos-related disease, contact a mesothelioma attorney at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm immediately. We offer free legal consultations and are available any time of the day or night.