Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Isle vermiculite facility
cleaned of asbestos
under EPA watch

The cleaning of the Mapunapuna
site took place in December

By Helen Altonn

A Mapunapuna site used for vermiculite processing 25 or 30 years ago was excavated and cleaned of asbestos in December by the Damon Estate, the landowner.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently identified Hawaii among states that had received ore for vermiculite processing from Libby, Mont., where 200 deaths and 750 illnesses have been attributed to asbestos contamination.

The EPA advised consumers who suspect they have asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation in their homes not to disturb it.

Tim Johns, chief operating officer of Damon Estate, said W.R. Grace & Co. had a vermiculite processing facility at 842A Mapunapuna St. in the 1960s and early 1970s that received vermiculite with asbestos from its mine in Montana.

The company closed the mine in 1991 after 67 years of operation.

The high lung cancer and fatal asbestos poisoning rates there raised concern about the problem spreading to other areas where vermiculite was shipped for processing in soil conditioner and home insulation.

The EPA identified the Mapunapuna site as one of at least 22 in the country requiring EPA-overseen cleanup, which was done in December.

"We worked with them to come up with a plan to clean it up," Johns said. "We cleaned up a little bit more than they anticipated."

He said a master lessee had subleased the property to Vermiculite of Hawaii and maintained the lease several years after the vermiculite processing ended.

More information on asbestos may be obtained on EPA's TSCA Hotline,1-202-554-1404, or from the EPA asbestos Web site:

E-mail to City Desk


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