Asbestos: Always an Unwelcome Guest

For some, it probably doesn’t seem that long ago. The year was 1968, the town, Gary, Indiana. A new 14-story hotel was opening in the downtown. Like most new buildings, it was constructed with the latest in modern techniques. The timing was, shall we say, not the best. Gary, like many industrial cities of the northeast and Midwest, was on a downward curve, as business and capital moved elsewhere.

One thing that did not move was the asbestos that was everywhere in the building. What had seemed like “good engineering” practices in the 1960s, has transformed to a slow-motion disaster. The hotel, which closed in 1985, sat empty for 23 years. Part of the reason is due to the expense of asbestos abatement.

You see, they had used asbestos many places in the building, and with the help of federal money, in 2008, they were finally able to properly abate the upper floors of the building, removing 98 percent of asbestos contain materials, which required taking the much of the building down to the structural supports.

Unfortunately, there is more. Asbestos “remains embedded in concrete ceiling seams, textured paint on exterior walls, floor tiles, electric fixtures, window frames and the boiler fireproofing.”

The use of asbestos to the exterior textured paint means will cost an additional $1.3 million to remove, because it has become too friable to remain. In addition, in what is a common occurrence with asbestos abatement, the first contractor did not address the problem of asbestos in the seams of the concrete floor, because “they didn’t know it was there.”

Asbestos may not be used anymore, but the specter of this deadly material continues to haunt cities throughout the country.