Clean-up and demolition at a suburban Philadelphia asbestos insulation and paper plant began this week and is expected to be completed by summer, making way for a new sewage treatment plant in the city of Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
According to an article in the Times Herald, the former Nicolet property on Washington Street, owned by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA), will cost the city more than $1.1 million for asbestos abatement and demolition. The property was originally purchased in 2001 as a potential Brownfield development site. The developer, O’Neill Properties, paid $55,000 for the site, on which they had intended to build multistory apartment complexes. The county purchased the site from O’Neill last year with the hopes of instead building a new sewage treatment plant to replace an old one that frequently experiences sewage overflows.
However, due to the nature of Nicolet’s manufacturing business, the site at 500 and 600 Washington Street is strewn with asbestos, even though the plant has been dormant for quite some time. There were remnants of asbestos manufacturing in (underground) tanks and in the ground,” said Jerry Nugent, executive director of the MCRA. “The asbestos in the 500 (Washington Street) building was in the pipe wrap or tile flooring or the building facade.”
In addition, the article notes, engineers found tanks, tunnels, trenches, and concrete canals from the days of Nicolet’s asbestos processing and many of those were filled with toxic asbestos slurry.
A second phase of the clean-up will involve drilling holes throughout the site to see if any ground contamination is present. If so, additional remediation work may be required and will most likely involve the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “It has turned out to be a huge job,” Nugent said.
The Nicolet site has long been a concern for those who live and work in the area, which is located southwest of Philadelphia. The community has long feared the potential of both air and ground contamination caused by the large amounts of asbestos left on the property. Asbestos exposure can cause myriad lung-related diseases including pleural mesothelioma and other cancers.