The bucolic scenery of northwestern Washington was disturbed this week when law enforcement discovered what they are calling the largest illegal asbestos dump in the region’s history.
State officials in mostly-rural Jefferson County were recently alerted to the presence of more than 100 bags of hazardous concrete asbestos board left along the side of the road in two different locations, and now they’re looking for the culprit.
According to an article in the Port Townsend Leader, authorities are searching for the person who left bags full of mint green-colored siding along a Department of Natural Resources Road and near Lake Anderson around the vicinity of Port Hadlock. The bags appear to contain the same material most likely from the same asbestos removal job.
“I’ve been here 11 years, and that’s the biggest illegal asbestos dumping that I have seen,” said Mike Shults, an air quality specialist with the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), based in Olympia. “If there had been a bigger one, I would have heard,” he added. Shults is responsible for monitoring air quality in six northwestern Washington counties.
“It’s dangerous if it becomes airborne, and standards are zero tolerance with it. You want to control all emissions. That’s why we treat it as hazardous,” Shults said, expressing concern for anyone who may have encountered the material.
In the meantime, Shults and his colleagues are using their eyes and ears to find out who left the toxic trash by the side of the road. He’s encouraged anyone who knows anything about the discarded asbestos board siding to come forward and tell the authorities.
Numerous local agencies have become involved in the mystery and it’s likely that the regional EPA and possibly the Washington State Department of Ecology may join the ranks of those trying to finger the culprit.
The bags – 55 and 52 in number – were found six days apart. It’s likely they were left there by an individual or company who did not want to spend the time or money for proper disposal of the toxic waste. There are no landfills in Jefferson County that accept asbestos materials, however, there is an approved disposal site about an hour away in Port Angeles in neighboring Clallam County.
Air quality specialist Pinky Feria Mingo told the newspaper that he believes the discarded trash was left by a contractor. It’s unlikely, he added, that an inexperienced homeowner removed the siding.
This opens up a whole new can of worms in regards to who removed the siding and if the proper precautions were taken during the removal, including wetting the siding during removal and the wearing of protective gear that would have prevented inhalation of dangerous fibers.
Sadly, this is an all too common scenario around the country. Shifty contractors try to skirt costs by engaging in improper disposal of hazardous materials, putting the general public in danger by leaving the debris in places where unsuspecting individuals may encounter it. When and if the offender in this case is found, he will likely face a hefty fine and possible jail time.