Demolition of a city water tank has been halted due to city engineers discovering asbestos inside the 100-year-old concrete storage tower.
In October, the City of Oakdale finalized plans for $1.2 million toward construction of a new 1-million gallon storage tank which also required demolition of the two standing Valley View water tanks.
The city contracted with Ford Environmental Services to perform an asbestos survey of the existing concrete and piping at the site above Valley View Park. Samples of the exterior of the concrete tank came back negative for asbestos and demolition began in November. No sample was taken from the interior of the tank since there was no access at that time.
Once the demolition work began, the demolition crews detected a questionable coating material on the inside of the tank. Work immediately stopped and site was secured while Ford Environmental Services examined the material and took samples for testing. The material came back positive for asbestos and a report was provided to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District which included suggested methods of removal.
Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said it is the city's goal to always follow the appropriate and required protocols to protect the environment and community from any toxic materials.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral sometimes used for fireproofing. It has long been used to strengthen cement used to construct water pipes. It was commonly used for this purpose in 1912 when the tower was built.
The concrete tank was replaced with a steel storage unit in 1963 and hasn't been used since then. The steel tank was demolished earlier this month.
Asbestos is known to cause several types of cancer, including mesothelioma and colon cancer. It can enter the human body by being inhaled and by being ingested through food or drink. Although it is more commonly associated with cancer when it is inhaled, asbestos is still dangerous when it is ingested because most inhaled asbestos is eventually coughed up and swallowed.
“The city's consultant and contractor met with SJVAPCD at the site to review the material and agree upon steps to remedy the issue,” Whitemyer said. “We have given the contractor approval to proceed with additional containment measures while the abatement and disposal process takes place.”
Whitemyer added that the demolition phase of the project budgeting will be revised due to getting bids for proper disposal of the material.
“It’s one of those unavoidable costs,” Whitemyer said. “You can’t just leave it. We have to be responsible and look out for the health and safety of the community.”
Since the material was discovered, Ford Environmental Services has been taking down-wind air samples to verify no increase in asbestos exposure was caused by the project.
For the complete story, read the Nov. 27 edition of The Leader.