EPA Won’t Approve "Wet Method" of Asbestos Demolition in Fort Worth

Asbestos Not Properly Controled With "Wet Method" of Removal

FORT WORTH, TX-July 30, 2004-Facing mounting criticism from neighborhood groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided not to approve the use of the wet method to demolish the Cowtown Inn, a decaying asbestos-containing building. The wet method or Fort Worth method involves spraying asbestos-laden areas with a fire hose, then bulldozing the structure with the asbestos in place. This is an unsafe, but cheap, asbestos removal technique that could release dangerous levels of asbestos into surrounding areas.

Environmentalists had feared that the wet method would become the model for demolitions nationwide, and some EPA staff members had expressed dismay about the demolition plan (Executive Summary, Draft ACT General Comments). Leaders of Public Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a local organization from east Fort Worth, the Handley Community for Environmental Justice (HCEJ), met with EPA officials last week and successfully stopped use of the wet method for the Cowtown Inn demolition.

"This is a huge victory for everyone who cares about people's health," said Rená Huguenin of HCEJ, who lives in the community where the Cowtown Inn is located (Public Justice Press Release). "Because scientists agree there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, and the experimental asbestos removal method known as the wet method or Fort Worth method provides less protection than is required by federal law, we call on the City of Fort Worth to stop dragging its feet and knock down the Cowtown Inn using approval federal safety standards - the same standards used in wealthier neighborhoods."

Government regulations require that asbestos be contained, hand-removed, and bagged before a demolition can take place. If the wet method is used instead, asbestos releases cannot be detected or controlled. The proposed demolition contained no plan for adequate air monitoring, and did not account for asbestos in attic insulation, fireproofing, and ceiling tiles. Worker safety issues were also largely ignored.

The EPA still expects to test the wet method in a sparsely populated area. " ... We will hold EPA to its pledge to ensure that wherever the experiment is conducted, there will be meaningful opportunity for public comment on, and scientific peer review of, the test plans and test results," commented Jim Hecker, Public Justice's Environmental Enforcement Director.

At Brayton Purcell, we are concerned about the exposure of both workers and the general public to asbestos. We have been successfully handling asbestos litigation for over 20 years. If you have developed an asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis ormesothelioma, please contact our asbestos attorneys to learn about your legal options.