Asbestos found in Arroyo Chico project

Source:, June 28, 2011
By: Bud Foster

A few years ago, it was not unusual for people to use washes and arroyos as their own personal garbage dumps.
It was not illegal, it was convenient and some thought it was a good way to help prevent flooding by shoring up the sides.
Those days are long gone, but what’s left behind is, in some cases, just being discovered.
One of those things is asbestos.
“We did find some asbestos when we were constructing Phase II of the Arroyo Chico project, says Chris Cawein, deputy director of the county flood control district.
Construction workers found a mix of things including siding and roof tiles that contained the asbestos.
About 1500 cubic feet of soil and debris had to be removed from two sites and another one will be cleaned up later this week.
That has some people worried about the potential for water and air contamination.
“Yes, there was some concern from residents and I understand that completely,” he says.
When people hear the word asbestos, their ears tend to perk up and thoughts of the worst are normal.
But Cawein says this time, that’s not the case.
“It’s very tightly tied up in the siding or the roofing material and it does not mobilize easily to the air or to the water,” he says.
That’s backed up by the company which did the remediation, Southwest Hazard Control.
It’s not the same type of asbestos which caused concern years ago.
“Compared to the material you find on piping or material you find in fire proofing in buildings, this is not the same type of material,” says Bruce Drath of SHC.
He says this type of material has been approved for use in siding and building materials because it’s not the same.
It’s not “that kind of stuff that’s easily crumbled by hand.”
The Arroyo Chico project is a 10 year, $20 million project which will use several retention basins to store water from the monsoon rains.
In the past, the water would fill and flood downtown and 4th Avenue. Now with the modern streetcar coming soon, it’s hoped the project will keep flooding to a minimum.
Meantime, there’s one more basin to dig and who knows what might be found.
“Anytime you go digging around the banks of a wash, you expect to find something,” Cawein says. “It’s just a matter of how bad it is or how not bad it is.”

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