The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are coordinating with other state and federal agencies to develop plans to remove and dispose of asbestos-containing debris from a warehouse fire at 1300 North River Street, Portland, Oregon, that started Sunday May 13.
The public is advised to avoid direct or indirect contact with the asbestos-containing material which may look like ash or paper which crumbles to dust upon contact.
If you live or work near the warehouse fire location, do not touch, do no try to pick up, move or vacuum any debris that may have come from the fire. The debris will look like ash or paper, and crumbles to dust easily. This dust may contain asbestos. [See attached photos and asbestos identification key.]
Sweeping, vacuuming, or otherwise disturbing this debris might increase the release of asbestos fibers. Try not to track the dust and debris into your home – take shoes off when you come inside, wipe pet’s feet when they come in from outside, and wash children’s hands often.
If you find any of this debris please call 503-229-5815 and leave a message:
· Describe what the debris looks like
· The address where the debris is
· Describe where the debris is on your property
· Your name
· Your phone number
DEQ will oversee a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to remove waste materials potentially related to asbestos from the warehouse fire and adjacent properties and any related asbestos debris found in neighborhoods near the site. Debris may have spread to approximately two miles on each side of the Willamette River.
Efforts are underway to begin air monitoring and sampling as soon as possible. Preliminary lab results will be reported as soon as they are available. The recent rain lowers the risk of debris becoming airborne. As the weather improves and conditions become drier, the risk of the asbestos debris becoming airborne may increase.
In addition to cleanup actions, agencies are reaching out directly to community members and property managers to advise the public to try to avoid contact with the material and. DEQ set up an information line to respond to safety concerns. The DEQ Incident Hotline is 503-229-5815.
DEQ conducted site visits at the warehouse and nearby properties on May 15 and 16, to assess debris released as a result of the warehouse fire and the potential effects on surrounding areas. DEQ collected samples of the roofing paper (commonly found under asphalt shingles). Lab results show that the roofing paper contains asbestos. DEQ consulted with the Oregon Health Authority. OHA indicated that the type of potential short-term exposure to asbestos related to the fire is unlikely to pose any significant health risks.
DEQ, EPA, OHA, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, and Multnomah County are coordinating with the Portland Fire Department under a joint-agency unified incident command structure to minimize risks to the surrounding neighborhoods. The Portland Fire Department will continue efforts to suppress the hot spots without disturbing the debris. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
When asbestos containing materials break down, asbestos fibers can be released. The fibers are very small and thin and cannot be seen without a microscope. Breathing these fibers can cause asbestos-related disease. They can stick in the lungs, causing asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is greater for people who smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time, although that is not always the case. Disease symptoms do not usually appear until 10 to 40 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
For more information about asbestos see http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=29&tid=4.
Source: Oregon DEQ