Hospital property yields new enviro concern  

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  The Carter County Memorial Hospital property gave up a buried secret last week.
  In addition to asbestos material present in the hospital building, the company selected to raze the hospital must also dispose of an underground storage tank that once held gallons of diesel fuel.
  City of Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, confirmed last week that the tank has been discovered on the property. The tank previously held diesel fuel to power the hospital's emergency generator.
  "The tank will be removed in accordance with all environmental regulations," Ornduff said.
  Diesel fuel storage requires environmental abatement measures set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. The discovery may add a new layer of cost to the hospital's demolition.
  Asbestos materials found in the building must be moved prior to demolition. The city's request for proposal requires a bidder to submit a technical asbestos abatement plan. Ornduff said asbestos insulation material was concentrated around the hospital's boiler system and the steam pipes running through the building.
   Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials will oversee removal of asbestos per state and federal regulatory standards governing the substance. City government is responsible for conducting air monitoring and testing services while the asbestos is being removed. The city will also fund testing of compacted demolition materials for hazardous waste levels.
  The request for proposal sets a time of completion for the asbestos removal and hospital demolition at 180 days. The proposal also demands that trucks leaving the site with demolition material be covered and that a 6-foot chain link fence be installed around the work area once the project begins.
   Concerns over health risks posed by high exposures to airborne asbestos brought on much of the decline of asbestos use between the 1960s and 1980s. Federal health officials began linking asbestos exposure to increased rates of lung cancer among a cross section of workers exposed to materials containing the fiber.
   People who work with asbestos are required to wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure and developing an asbestos-related illness. Inhalation of asbestos can cause serious lung diseases and other illnesses that may not appear until years after exposure occurred. Asbestos can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
  The 96,000 square-foot hospital building sits on a 5.4-acre tract of property located on West G Street. Elizabethton City Council appropriated $485,000 in its capital outlay budget for the 2005 fiscal year to raze the building.