County says asbestos in neighborhood following fireBy Martin Ricard
Asbestos and hazardous metals were found in the debris and air following the Sept. 9 fire that ripped through the Crestmoor neighborhood, but they weren't in amounts that could be dangerous to residents' health, a report from the county environmental health department said.
The report, released Tuesday by the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department, comes out nearly two months after crews finished demolishing the homes destroyed by the explosion and taking away the debris.
It is meant to outline the results of the cleanup effort, and, according to Dean Peterson, the director of the county's environmental health department, it should disprove any fears that the Crestmoor neighborhood is still contaminated with toxic substances from the fire.
"If we had not gone in as quickly as we did to clean that material up, then I would say, absolutely, there would still be an ongoing issue with contamination," Peterson said. "But when you clean up the source, you're not adding to that contamination. That's really what we did."
Overall, crews removed 7,000 tons of debris from 35 properties, including the Earl and Glenview Park, which had been destroyed in the disaster. The work took 16 days to complete, from Sept. 23-Oct. 11. Air samplings were taken before and during the cleanup. Asbestos and metal samples were shipped overnight to a lab in Cincinnati, Ohio. And the debris removed from the area was taken to a landfill in Solano County while metals and other salvageable materials were recycled.
The report showed that out of the structures that were demolished only 13 samples collected on 10 properties showed concentrations of asbestos that were higher than normal. The asbestos was found where crews expected to find it, Peterson said: in building materials such as vinyl flooring.
However, none of the air samples showed an asbestos amount that exceeded a level considered to be dangerous to anyone's health.
Other findings in the report show:
- Metals were found in two of the air samples taken. Those samples included trace amounts of iron and copper, but the amounts were not considered hazardous.
- Trees that were burned in the fire were removed when they posed a safety hazard to crews working the cleanup site. The trees were selectively cut and removed by crane to protect the surrounding structures and to avoid having dust spread.
- On occasion, some dust was spread by contractors and homeowners working on homes other than the 35 that were cleaned up. In those cases, they were asked to wet down the properties to avoid anything else from spreading.
Many residents still say they are concerned about long-term air quality issues in the neighborhood as they fear the ground is now contaminated with an array to toxic substances.
Peterson said that is likely not the case for the area inspected by the cleanup crews. He said he also suspected there wouldn't be any contamination in the surrounding area since most of the ash from the fire would have dissipated by now.
Copyright ©2010 San Bruno Patch. Published 12/07/2010.