EPA Completes Asbestos Cleanup at Oregon Mill Site

Managing Trustee Dan Desler Facing Felony Air Pollution Charges Over Lumber Mill Demolition

December 3, 2009 - The site of the former Willamette Industries lumber mill is almost five million pounds lighter after the completed removal of asbestos containing materials by EPA contractors. The cleanup focused on asbestos containing debris from a 2007 demolition of buildings on the 153-acre property currently owned by Western States Reliance Trust. Managing trustee Dan Desler is facing felony air pollution charges in connection with the demolition.

Decontamination of the mill site finished on time with a price tag of approximately $1.1million. The EPA sampled the air for asbestos 280 times during the course of cleanup to make sure airborne asbestos stayed within required limits. In the early stages of the cleanup, EPA On-Scene Coordinator Dan Heister hosted a public meeting to explain the project to neighbors and answer questions. Officials described the potential health effects of exposure to asbestos, explaining that asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma can take years after exposure to develop.

The east kiln area of the property had the highest levels of asbestos concentration, the concrete containing approximately 25 percent asbestos. Some pipes, marked "non-asbestos" prior to WSLRT purchasing the property, contained up to 17 percent asbestos. "I've never seen material that has as much asbestos as this does," Heister said.

Trustee Desler Faces Host of Air Pollution Charges

Desler was indicted on seven counts of first-degree unlawful air pollution, three counts of second-degree unlawful air pollution, providing false information to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and recklessly endangering another person. All charges stemmed from demolition of the buildings on the mill property. Desler claims that when the trust took possession of the mill site in 2002, Willamette Industries provided a report saying it was asbestos-free.

The city of Sweet Home issued Desler a demolition permit for the mill site, but it was revoked in 2008 after the city was notified by Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality of asbestos contamination on site, according to Carol Lewis, the city's community development director. The demolition stopped when transite asbestos material was discovered.