Cleanup on the Lupton City Mill site hit another hurdle last week when contractors discovered an elevator shaft with significant friable asbestos, creating a need for increased funding for safe asbestos handling not included in the awarded asbestos abatement contract.
Chattanooga's Public Works Administrator Justin Holland told the city council Tuesday that the newfound asbestos will require more funding and complicate the process of cleaning the mill site obtained by the city in 2017.
"The Lupton City Mill site was demolished before we ever got out there so there are still lots of unknowns," Holland warned. "There is a room at the bottom of the shaft that has debris that we know contains additional friable asbestos."
According to Holland, the additional asbestos discovered during the cleanup is "friable," or easily crumbled, and poses a higher risk of spreading and harm to workers than the asbestos originally found on the site and, therefore, requires a more stringent wet cleaning process and increased funds on the project.
"If it's bound together by a particular material, that's nonfriable asbestos. Friable asbestos is loose and touching it causes it to become very powdery," City Engineer Bill Payne said Tuesday. "So that part of the clean up requires special safety precautions from the workers who are doing the clean-up ... there is nonfriable asbestos out there as well, but it does not require the same precautions and is included in the original contract."
Payne said the surrounding community is not in danger from the asbestos.
"All of this is located far away on the site and as long as it's not disturbed, even with the friable asbestos, nothing happens to activate it," Payne continued. "We just have to take precautions for the contractors handling it."
The city has taken steps toward restoring the site this year, first approving a $1.6 million clean-up contract in January and later approving a $245,000 asbestos abatement contract, which the council increased by $60,000 and a $25,000 contingency Tuesday, bringing the budget to more than $330,000 in light of the new discovery.
Mark Mullins, president of the Fairfax Heights/Bagwell City Neighborhood Association, was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday, but told the Times Free Press in September that he and other neighbors put little stock in the city's time lines for the project after nearly three years of officials doing a "less than optimal job" with the site.
"I absolutely take anything they say they're going to do, especially time frames, with a grain of salt," Mullins said after the contract was passed. "So far, all we have heard is talk, and it's kind of ridiculous."
Holland was unable to provide an updated timeline after the meeting.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416, email@example.com or on Twitter @_SarahGTaylor.