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Neighborhood Worried About Potential Asbestos Exposure

Apr 22, 2003 | The Florida Department of Transportation purchased several homes just off Martin Luther King Blvd. as part of a $5 million plan to improve access to the Tallyrand Port. Now, a sign put up, during demolition of the homes, warning of asbestos has neighbors worried about their health.

Neighbors who live near the homes on Ninth and Tilden Streets are concerned because of the health problems related to the inhalation of asbestos. Residents say they want to make sure the demolition is being done correctly so that their exposure to the carcinogenic substance is minimal.

Resident Cedric Butler says because of the neighborhood's potential exposure to the substance he was told by the Florida Department of Transportation the demolition of the old homes would involve a wet demolition. The problem he says is the demolition wasn't wet. Said Butler, "They said they would have to do a wet demolish, which they didn't do." As a result he says his house was covered in dust. "There was a layer inside the house, on the bed, and on the windows."

According to Mike Goldman of the Florida Department of Transportation, the asbestos removal process is something the department takes very seriously. He says the Butlers are not in danger. He says that's because, "in this case, the fact that it was 20 square feet of flooring where you can crush it and none of the residue is going to get into the air or if it does it is absolutely miniscule." The state is required to post signs warning of asbestos if the substance is found within a building scheduled to be demolished. However, nothing out of the ordinary is required if the level of asbestos is low.

Despite the assurance from the state Butler says he'll never know for sure if he was in danger. "They never said, you might want to close your windows or go somewhere else until we finish this." He says if he knew advance what the state was going to do he would have gone somewhere else.

The Department of Transportation is now helping the Butler's relocate but has made it clear the asbestos found on the floor tiles of the house demolished on Monday was not likely to become airborne. The department did note there is one house in the neighborhood that has a large amount of asbestos inside and will require special handling.

Demolition of the homes is expected to be completed by June 2003 and construction is scheduled to begin in the Fall.

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