MIAMI — Preliminary work began Friday, June 7 on the removal of approximately 23,000 tons of asbestos containing debris from the old B.F. Goodrich site.

Mike McAteer, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 federal on scene coordinator from Dallas updated residents of the project during a question and answer session Thursday, June 6 at the Civic Center.

The site has been prepped and four air monitors were placed at strategic locations Saturday morning.

They will test for airborne asbestos.

Through several expansions since the plant opened in 1946, the plant covered 1.6 million square feet and more than 2,000 employees.

It closed down in 1986.

In 1988, Michelin swallowed up B.F. Goodrich.

Phase 1 picks up where an initial project to clean up the site was abandoned in 2014, when the contractor responsible for the demolition — Real Estate Remediation, LLC of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a subsidiary of the Blakeney Company — completed about 70% of the work before declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

There are 20 piles of asbestos-laden debris that must be removed as well as the oven building and the office building. Those will be targeted in the initial phase.

All were sampled by the EPA and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and McAteer said it was determined that each had asbestos at varying levels as high as 40% of material.

“The material is not all asbestos,” he stressed. “There are cinder blocks, steel and a lot of material that was attached to the building, for example the flooring, wall boards, some of the roofing material. It has been brought down, pulverized, crushed into these piles.”

McAteer said Phase 1, which will cost $2.8 million under the EPA’s Superfund program (which also includes Tar Creek), could be completed by September.

“The part that will take the longest in Phase 2 is the actual abatement of the powerhouse building,” McAteer said. “I am estimating at least three or four months do that kind of abatement on a building of that size with that much asbestos. The other things out there, the pits and basements, could be done concurrently, so I am hoping we can wrap that second phase up within a six-month period.

“Ideally, it would be nice if we could just Segway from 1 right into Phase 2. There is a hope that we can get Michelin involved. That might slow it up a little bit.”

McAteer said taxpayers could be held responsible for the work, but efforts are to have Michelin chip in to help out.

“It would be cost recovery. We will basically send them a bill for this,” McAteer said. “It’s still up to the attorneys at the EPA talking to the attorneys at Michelin in terms of their liability. They will have an argument as to why they think they should not be paying for this, let alone cleaning it up. We have to work with them.”

The fact that there are three schools in the area — Will Rogers Middle School, Nichols Upper Elementary and Miami Head Start — set off bells and whistles when the EPA first evaluated the site.

“That is the first thing we noticed when we came in to look at it. Wow, three schools, not one school or two schools, but three schools next to it and a lot of residences right across the street,” McAteer said. “That is not an ideal situation.”

McAteer said the EPA has explained to officials at the Miami Public Schools and City of Miami about the plans.

A number of residents who live near by the plant told of major health issues they or their children have developed over the past number of years.

Vandalism has been a major problem on three sides of the building.

It seems every time we fix holes, literally within a week, people are tearing new holes n the fence and getting onto the property.

He said the powerhouse building has been a popular target because there is still metal inside.

“We have boarded that up at least four times and they are tearing it apart to get inside the building.

Nighttime security also has been added.

During Phase 1, debris will be placed in plastic-lined trucks then “burrito wrapped” with additional plastic tarping.

Water will be sprayed on the material as all times during the loading and dumping processes to keep dust at a minimum,” McAteer said.

All EPA contract workers will wear hazmat suits with respirators.

The oven building and office building will be taken down with a “wet” demolition process.

“Because they are too unstable to send crews in to actually remove the pieces of asbestos, we are going to bring the buildings down in a process that involves putting a lot of water from all different angles on the building as they are basically tearing it down,” McAteer said.

That material then will be loaded and transported to the Prairie View Regional Waste Landfill in Lamar, Missouri.

There also is a backup landfill site in Sand Springs.

Trucks will be decontaminated before they return.

If wind speeds exceed 30 miles per hour, operations will be shut down for the day, McAteer said.