Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can pose a health hazard to human beings. The threat from asbestos happens when it crumbles and becomes a powder. When this happens it is called friable asbestos.
The Lynch School building does have asbestos. This asbestos falls into two categories. Some is exposed but can be removed through a process called mitigation. While the building was still being used as a school, mitigation, or removal, was being done in steps under the monitoring of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The main hallways on both floors, most of the ceiling tiles, etc. were removed and replaced.
The other asbestos in the Lynch building currently is encased between the two layers of brick that form the outer walls. This encased asbestos poses no health threat unless and until it is released in demolition. The outer walls of this 75,000 square foot building contain massive amounts of asbestos. During demolition this asbestos will crumble, be pulverized and become a deadly powder that poses a significant potential health hazard.
During the Ordinance Committee meeting of July 31st 2018, there was much discussion and much confusion about the interior abatement of Lynch and the environmental concerns that a demolition would present. As far as I understand, there has been an assessment of the toxic substances contained within the building,
As far as the demolition goes—if that were to happen—an environmental study MUST BE PROVIDED before the asbestos-insulated exterior walls of Lynch come down. The time to determine whether this will be hazardous to the public is before the zoning is changed, not after. Studies in Massachusetts show that most abatement and demolition companies have been charged with violations regarding the disposal and removal of asbestos. This is partially because the fines that they have to pay are lower in the end than the cost of doing everything by the book. To prove this point, see below some links to articles regarding the subject and a brief outline of the main points made in them. Nor is it clear that is even possible to do this demolition safely.
During the Government Relations Committee meeting of April 30, our Director of Planning and Development, Marcos Marrero, stated that one of two options to demolish would be “by machine.” This process would require that all the debris be treated as “hot” and properly disposed of. Please notice that after the demolition of St. Ann in West Springfield the Catholic Church was made responsible for the cleanup of contaminated waste (article under the Colvest page on this site)
IN SHORT IF THE BUILDING IS REPURPOSED THERE WILL BE A MUCH SMALLER RISK OF CONTAMINATION FOR THE NEARBY NEIGHBORHOODS
HAZARDOUS BUILDING MATERIALS INSPECTION REPORT John J. Lynch Middle School, 1575 Northampton Street, Holyoke, MA
The health impact of nonoccupational exposure to asbestos: what do we know?
"Bldg. 7 Demolition Halted by Discovery of Asbestos" from the National Institute of Health site
Building Demolition Could Put Locals at Risk of Asbestos Exposure from the Kazan, McClain Satterley & Greenwood firm's blog
Building-Demolition Workers Still at Risk of Asbestos Exposure: Government regulation and worksite monitoring are not always keeping workers who remove asbestos or perform demolition work in older buildings safe
Concerns About Cancer-Causing Asbestos Rise Amid Mass. Renovation Boom!
City Bureau and WBEZ’s Curious City story explored the potential health problems that come from the demolition of old houses built with toxic materials — and the lack of attention to the issue from Chicago officials.
It is estimated that over 9,900 people in the U.S. die every year due to asbestos-related illnesses.
A recent study shows that non-occupational exposure to asbestos may explain about 20% of the mesotheliomas
There are regulations designed to minimize exposure to asbestos during building demolitions, but there have been many instances where construction workers have either rushed their way through demolition and led to contamination or agencies have willfully ignored regulations
From 2011 to 2016, Massachusetts regulators found more than 300 asbestos safety violations
Fines aren’t very severe—according to an occupational health researcher, “Some employers budget-in fines as the price of doing business” Yet Illnesses caused from asbestos inhalation are, in fact, severe. Asbestos inhalation can cause mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer