MIAMI — Work on removing approximately 20,000 tons of asbestos containing debris at the old B.F. Goodrich tire plant is moving along well, according to the on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We are not only on schedule, but maybe a little ahead of schedule,” said Mike McAteer, who oversees the EPA’s Region 6, which includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico. “I am still aiming to have all the piles out of there and the two buildings down before school starts in August.”

McAteer said work was just past the halfway mark of removing 19 piles of asbestos laden debris as of late afternoon Tuesday, July 9.

Work started June 7.

Will Rogers Middle School, Nichols Elementary and Miami Head Start are located within a block east of the site.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, if things keep going well, we will have the vast majority of it taken out before school starts,” McAteer said, noting that workers had an extended Fourth of July break since things were proceeding so well.

“We’re moving through the piles faster than I thought,” McAteer said. “I am always nervous because on these jobs, a lot of times, we’re at the mercy of the trucks. You have to have enough trucks coming in and out running to the landfill. We haven’t had any problems on this one.

“They have been a steady routine, all day long, every day, including Saturday, of turning around and getting back from the landfill at Lamar (Missouri) with no problems.”

One of the projects planned for this week was taking down the oven.

Through several expansions following the opening of the plant in 1946, it covered 1.6 million square feet and employed more than 2,000.

Goodrich announced it would close the plant 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.

In addition to the numerous piles, there were still the oven and office buildings that needed to be taken down when work originally ground to a halt.

McAteer said it was estimated that Phase 1 would cost $2.8 million under the EPA’s Superfund program.

Debris is being dumped into plastic-lined trucks then sealed with additional plastic tarping.

Debris is being transported to the Prairie View Regional Waste Landfill in Lamar.

They’ve also used a backup site in Sand Springs so work can continue Saturdays.

Water is being 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 are wearing hazmat suits with respirators.

The oven and office buildings are to be razed by a “wet” demolition process.

Trucks are being decontaminated before returning to Miami.

Prior to the start of work, four air quality monitors were installed at various places around the project.

If wind speeds exceed 30 miles per hour, operations will be shut down for the day, McAteer said. He said that hasn't happened yet.