Camp Roberts Asbestos Contamination

The Camp Roberts training facilities encompass more than 40,000 acres in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties in California. The Camp was originally used for staging and training Army soldiers before deployment and reached peak activity during WWII and the Korean War. In 1971, the facilities were transferred to the California National Guard, which used the site again as a training facility. The site was discovered to be dangerously contaminated in early 1985, though assessments and reviews were not conducted until 1986 and 1999, respectively. The site is, however, listed as a Superfund site, though there is little to no information about it on the EPA website.

Asbestos exposure attorneys urge anyone who lived in or within close vicinity to Camp Roberts to receive regular medical check-ups. Asbestos is just one of the many hazardous substances prevalent in Camp Roberts. Development of life-threatening illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis are directly linked to exposure to asbestos. The 1999 report recognized fourteen separate sites of known contaminant releases.

The delay between initial discovery of the hazardous materials and ultimate abatement and demolishment was due to the special requirements of the project. Because of the expansive size of the site, the California National Guard was asked to build its own landfill specifically for this project. The permits for this 85-acre hazardous waste landfill took more than 10 years to clear.

The Engineering Yard is enclosed by a fence, and includes three areas of concern. Among these includes the metal salvage yard, which contains old hot water tanks completely covered with asbestos containing materials, much of which is visibly friable. Friable refers to asbestos products that are easily eroded, such as with human force, enabling asbestos fibers to become airborne.

The 1999 report recommends that a site investigation should be conducted of the Engineering Yard to identify and characterize possible hazardous substances releases associated with the water tanks covered with asbestos.

Various activities at Camp Roberts, including vehicle maintenance, facility and building maintenance, pest and weed control, and weapons’ firing, require the use of hazardous materials and the generation of hazardous waste. Most of the hazardous materials used at Camp Roberts are those required for the maintenance and operation of motor vehicles that are stored at the site, including lubricants, solvents, antifreeze, propane, acetylene, argon, sulfuric acid, degreasers, and battery acid. Other hazardous materials used at the installation include pesticides and herbicides, ammunition and explosives, chlorine, and various paints, polishes, varnishes, and thinners.

Most of the hazardous wastes are generated during wheeled and tracked vehicle maintenance. These wastes include antifreeze, lead/acid batteries (whole) and battery acid, solvents, paints, and miscellaneous solids, such as brake pads. Brake pads are a major product known to contain asbestos. The hazardous wastes are accumulated by type in segregated containers at satellite collection points, transferred to a central collection point, and from there transported off-site for disposal.

There are six unpermitted, inactive trench fills located to the south of the permitted area. This unpermitted area was reportedly used during WWII, the Korean War, and, according to aerial photographs, until 1966. The volume and nature of the wastes disposed are unknown; however, the general practice in the past was to landfill all wastes, which included ammunition boxes, pesticide containers, and expired drugs. The thickness and the permeability of the cover material are unknown.

The ensuing demolition project for Camp Roberts will cost an estimated $3.4 million. Much of this cost is attributed to the fees involved in properly removing the hazardous materials; asbestos, for example, is in all mess hall, barrack, supply room, administration offices, and chapel roofs. After the project is complete, the National Guard intends to build new living quarters, dining halls, parking and a solar farm on the site.

It is an unfortunate but affirmed fact that veterans have the highest rate of mesothelioma diagnosis in the nation. If you suspect you were exposed to asbestos at any point in your lifetime, and developed a related disease from exposure, contact one of our skilled mesothelioma attorneys immediately. We offer free legal consultations and have decades of experience working alongside victims of asbestos exposure and their families.