The people of Miami, Oklahoma are calling for the cleanup of a decommissioned B.F. Goodrich tire factory that is littered with asbestos. The two structures that are left standing, employed thousands of workers from 1945 to 1985.
Despite the warning and the “Keep Out” signs, trespassing is a common issue. Officials believe that asbestos is not harmful as long as it is undisturbed. However, no amount of asbestos in any form is safe. It is well known to these officials that people often trespass on the property to collect copper pipe, covered in asbestos, to sell. As a result, the asbestos is disturbed and carried out on the materials taken, trespasser’s clothes, and anything else on the property that is then taken outside the boundary.
Instead of demolishing the remnants of the old factory down, the city and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have boarded up the property and placed more warning signs around the property. Security is also being stepped up and a closer eye is being kept on the property to deter the trespassers.
Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) is pushing for more than just deterrents. LEAD is actively trying to get the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and the EPA to clean up the site rather than ignore the danger it poses.
Part of the property is owned by George R. Blakeney, of Alabama, who owns Real Estate Remediation LLC. He began to clean up the property in 2014, but work was halted after he filed for bankruptcy the next year.
Asbestos is not the only harmful substance in the factory ruins. Benzene, a toxin often found in plastics, oils, motor fuel, inks, and rubber, is also present on the property. Benzene was dumped at the site and has traveled into a nearby pond. Residents are concerned that it might reach the local water supply and eventually infiltrate the drinking water.
In 2017, more than 100 local property owners filed a lawsuit against Michelin North America, Inc. which purchased B.F. Goodrich in 1990. The plaintiffs believe that Michelin is aware of the Benzene leak and will not act to resolve the issue or notify the appropriate authorities.