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Concerned about a recent episode that involved the improper demolition of an old Westinghouse facility, a Weirton resident asked Hancock County (WV) commissioners yesterday if the old Weirton Steel Company blast furnace, scheduled to meet its demise shortly, would be abated of asbestos before it’s taken down.

Weirton asbestos abatement may affect communityResident John Thomas brought up the issue at the monthly commissioners’ meeting, citing the Westinghouse issue and addressing his concern for the safety of his family and for others who live near the once-active steel plant.

“So, I told (a friend) that I was coming here [to the meeting] to do an accessor’s address change, and he said why don’t you just bring it up that hopefully the contractor that does tear down the blast furnace has an abatement permit because we don’t want that stuff spewed,” Thomas said to the commissioners, according to a media account of the meeting.

The concerned resident stressed that without pre-demolition asbestos abatement, dangerous asbestos particles would spread throughout the city and could cause trouble for locals.

“If that thing comes down, you’re going to see asbestos everywhere,” Thomas said. “And you’ll basically have to encapsulate the entire town.”
Commissioners told Thomas that they appreciated his comments, thanked him for the information he provided, but didn’t verify that the demolition company had indeed applied for permits for asbestos abatement…at least, not yet.

Truly, Thomas and others in the area have reason to be concerned. Weirton Steel and other steel mills in the area were responsible for countless diagnoses of mesothelioma cancer over the years – a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Steel workers are among tradespeople with the highest risk of developing the disease, simply because the industry made abundant use of asbestos inside its plants for several decades.

Asbestos materials were used as insulation to wrap high-temperature equipment, could be found in tiles and other construction products, and asbestos was – ironically – often a component in clothing steelworkers used to protect themselves from burns.

Even facemasks were made from asbestos materials!

Tradespeople in the steel industry who may have been exposed to asbestos materials include:

  • Pipefitters
  • Millwrights
  • Welders
  • Boilermakers
  • Machinists
  • Blacksmiths
  • Motor inspectors
  • Insulators

And many others

Former employers of Weirton Steel and their families have been greatly affected by asbestos exposure and concerned citizens like John Thomas don’t want to see the problem perpetuated.

Shoddy demolition of the old blast furnace could mean a wide area covered in asbestos dust and another generation of individuals at risk for asbestos-related diseases.

Hence, it’s essential that the commissioners make sure the demolition company in question follows the rules for safe demolition, which includes pre-removal of asbestos.

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