An engineering company studying the possibility of asbestos removal from an old paper mill in Lincoln, Maine estimated that the removal of that and other toxins from the defunct property could cost as much as $16 million, reports an article in the Bangor Daily News.
The study of the 203-acre property that once was the home of Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC was state-commissioned and included the examination of all 38 buildings that belonged to the company, which declared bankruptcy in 2015.
Officials with Sevee and Maher Engineers Inc. of Cumberland, Maine said there was no immediate health or environmental hazards that came to their attention. However, the longer the property sits idle, the higher the possibility that asbestos and other toxins will become a problem.
Nonetheless, the total bill to clean up the property is pretty hefty, with most of the dollars – $12.4 million in all – going to the removal of asbestos. Other contaminants were found in small amounts within several of the buildings, including lead-based paint and polychlorinated biphenyl.
Before the property is demolished, other potential hazards such as computer screens and fluorescent lights will need to be removed, but those costs are minimal compared to the asbestos abatement.
The heaviest concentrations of asbestos were found in four buildings: the pulp mill, recovery boiler room, paper mill area, and power houses, the report noted.
This is not a surprise as asbestos was historically used in abundance in mills such as Lincoln Paper and Tissue, usually as an insulator for high-temperature equipment.
The material would assist in avoiding fires and could help keep workers from getting burnt in a work-related accident. However, while the asbestos may have kept fire and flames at bay, mill employees were getting sick due to constant exposure to asbestos dust.
The four buildings in question were among the largest at the site and a large majority of Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC employees worked in those buildings.
It’s difficult to estimate how many of those workers were exposed to toxic asbestos through the years, but considering that the company opened in 1882 as Lincoln Pulp and Paper and enjoyed continuous operation since that time (except for a short closure in the 1960s), those numbers are likely quite high.
Paper and textile mill workers are high on the list of those most likely to develop an asbestos-related disease. Those who worked on cutting and slicing machines, printing machine operators, lift-truck operators, fabricators, and others who held a whole host of jobs may have been exposed to asbestos products on-the-job.
Furthermore, they were rarely given protective equipment to prevent inhalation and most likely brought asbestos dust home on their clothes, causing their family members to be exposed as well.
Paper mill workers are among the many that have filed lawsuits against employers and asbestos product manufacturers during the last few decades, eager to receive compensation for loss of employment, medical bills, and other expenses associated with a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related cancer.