A few thieves intent on making a couple of extra bucks by pilfering copper pipe from a vacant housing development in Fall River, Massachusetts left behind a big mess, tearing down asbestos insulation and putting both themselves and others in danger of exposure.
According to an article in The Herald News, scrappers broke into two vacant buildings in the Oak Village housing complex in Fall River intent on removing pipes that they could then sell at a scrap yard. The copper pipes were connected to the boilers that once heated the two buildings. Wrapped around the pipes was asbestos insulation, which the men stripped away and left behind when they took the pipes.
Officials say the thieves will probably get about $200 for their take, but – unfortunately – what was left behind will cost the Public Housing Authority about $78,000 to clean up. The damage was discovered when inspectors went into the Oak Village buildings for pre-demolition inspection.
“The asbestos dust went everywhere,” said Peter Proulx, the director of facilities management for the Housing Authority. “We have to clean that up before we can tear the buildings down.”
“The problem is the asbestos dust,” Proulx continued. “Instead of an easy and clean operation of cutting the insulation and carrying it outside in one piece, the company now has to go in and clean every square inch before they begin demolition.” The clean-up will add a total of 51 days to the project.
The buildings were slated for demolition by the end of the year and asbestos materials would have needed to be removed before the wrecking ball came in, authorities pointed out, but the asbestos abatement would have been done following proper procedure, which involves wetting the material before removing it and packing it up in proper disposal containers before it goes to a designated toxic waste landfill.
Oak Village was constructed in 1967 when materials such as asbestos-containing pipe wrapping were quite common. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that the U.S. government essentially halted the use of most asbestos products, seeing a rise in diseases such as mesothelioma, especially among those who encountered asbestos while working in the building industry as contractors and construction workers and in other industries where asbestos was commonly used.