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January 21, 2018

Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga's former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga’s former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

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Dan Henry

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What: Information meeting about asbestos abatement at Harriet Tubman demolition site

When: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council committee meeting room

Chattanooga leaders don’t think there’s reason to worry about asbestos in the rubble of the Harriet Tubman development.

Some East Chattanooga residents hired to help demolish the former public housing site aren’t so sure.

Tim Newson, one of 14 East Chattanooga residents hired for the Harriet Tubman demolition, said that while he was on the job, only people actually removing asbestos wore safety equipment. Laborers working next to them didn’t even have face masks, Newson said.

Newson quit the $18.75-an-hour job because of his concerns. He and other East Chattanooga representatives concerned about potential airborne asbestos from the demolition are planning to attend a meeting of the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Councilman Moses Freeman, who represents the East Chattanooga area, said on-site engineers will give a report to the council addressing safety concerns raised by residents living near the area. Professionals will share their procedures for asbestos abatement.

Last week, Assistant City Engineer Dennis Malone said that the city contracted with environmental consulting firm S&ME, an East Coast firm with an office in Chattanooga, to study the Tubman buildings, make recommendations and draw up plans about abatement, and to approve the demolition plan by contractor Environmental Abatement.

Since then, S&ME has monitored the work and found no cause for concern about asbestos, Malone said.

Freeman said the meeting will focus on gathering information, not hearing complaints.

“We’re hearing a report based on a petition signed by a certain number of individuals who expressed concerns,” he said. “Getting information out about the process ought to allay the concerns, because we don’t think there is an asbestos problem.”

Robert Schreane, Hamilton County Coalition housing manager, said he got so many complaints from area residents worried about contaminants in the air that he emailed the Environmental Protection Agency asking for an investigation.

He sent the letter Monday, he said, not knowing that 37 East Chattanooga residents had submitted a petition asking the City Council to order independent environmental testing for airborne asbestos.

Schreane said the coalition makes no accusations of contamination, but it at least wants the EPA to check.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

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Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council