Ovid’s metamorphosis

Wet methods were paramount to control air quality. The mill structure debris were pre-wetted for a period of no less than 45 minutes by the use of water cannons set to ‘mist.’ The state-certified asbestos inspector set air samples in designated locations prior to beginning demolition activities.

The firm had two main challenges:

  • get the local landfill to approve a one-time asbestos permit to accept the waste so trucks would not have to haul the material three hours each way; and
  • convince CDPHE to approve a variance allowing for demolition of the mill with the asbestos still inside.

Working collaboratively with the state department, ESA was able to do both.

The strategy included traditional abatement and demolition of the smaller structures first since they were safe to abate. Once complete, ESA proposed traditional abatement on any easy-to-access sections of the main mill, removing as much bulk asbestos as safely feasible. ESA would then complete structural demolition of the mill, leaving the remaining asbestos in place. Once demolished, all trucks would be lined and wrapped so materials could be hauled without emissions. If successful, this would avoid the tremendous hazards of abatement in a structurally unsound building, as well as millions of dollars in labor and plastic used for traditional abatement.

In August 2016, ESA’s plan was approved. They were to provide at least one dedicated certified asbestos abatement supervisor onsite at all times during structurally unsound demolition and debris-removal activities. Full-time inspection and air-monitoring personnel were also required at all times.

“This was a collaborative effort that proceeded without the head-butting that can often occur in projects of this scale,” added Schafer. “From their professional field personnel to upper management, ESA was an exceptional partner in a very complex project that was not free of complications. ESA’s unique experience inside regulatory agencies was a huge benefit that allowed us to obtain the variance needed to save the owners millions of dollars now, and possibly many more millions in potential lawsuits down the line.”

The ESA team included project manager Robert Szynskie, who used to work within regulatory agencies and as a consultant, and co-owner Kory Mitchell, who serves as president of the Colorado Environmental Professionals Association, which works closely with CDPHE on regulatory issues.

ESA’s steel decontamination area.

Another unique aspect of variance for the project involved steel being allowed to be decontaminated of any asbestos and recycled. ESA’s equipment operators segregated the materials, cut metal into manageable size sections, and placed the materials in a metal cleaning area. Control measures such as windbreaks were installed to ensure the activities performed within this area were separated from the demolition and waste-loading areas. Wet methods and handwashing were conducted on a concrete pad using low-volume high-pressure sprayers and a high-volume vacuum impervious liquid barrier system. This system was supported with an ESA vacuum loader set up to filter recovered water to 5 µm prior to disposal in the specified sanitary sewer system.

Metal was cleaned inside the cleaning area and the state-certified air-monitoring specialist/building inspector (AMS/BI) visually inspected the metal for any dust and debris before the metal was moved outside the work area. The clean metal could then be moved from the work area to the clean recycling area to be loaded on rail cars or trucks for recycling.

What’s next for the remaining 21 abandoned sugar factories in Colorado? After ESA’s groundbreaking work in Ovid, perhaps more abandoned factories will follow suit.

“Our focus on this project was to show that safety must come first on projects of this nature. Sometimes, a common-sense approach in working with the state can yield results that are not only safer for the public health and the environment, but also more affordable for clients,” said Mitchell.

Time will tell if such an approach will be replicated on other dangerous abandoned structures littering the countryside.

Sue Rose is the founder of Rose Public Relations. She has written for the construction industry for two decades. Rose launched the Construction Writers Collaborative last year. She can be reached at sue@suerosepr.com.

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