EPA begins demolition of asbestos-filled Rock-Tenn power house in Otsego

Rock-Tenn demolition.PNG
EPA begins demolition of asbestos-filled Rock-Tenn power house in Otsego. (WWMT/Ray Hole)

The Environmental Protection Agency was in charge of a $1 million demolition project of power house building at the former Rock-Tenn Paper Mill facility in Otsego, which was expected to wrap up by May 14.

Tricia Edwards, federal on-scene coordinator for the EPA, said the demolition project was ahead of schedule. The Rock-Tenn Paper Mill hasn't been in operation since 2004, but it's contaminated and some call it dangerous.

"It's baby steps, baby steps," Pam McQueer, Otsego resident, said.

Edwards said a majority of the building demolition was expected be completed by May 14, and crews would start removing the hazardous waste from the site on May 15. The EPA said the work would be complete by June 2019.

Workers began removing asbestos from the building in April.

"We went through and removed the loose asbestos. The work was done by hand," said Edwards.

Workers used heavy machinery equipped with shears, grapples and other tools to begin ripping down parts of the building.

"We don't want the whole structure to collapse. We try to break it down methodically as possible to break down the building as we go," said Edwards.

A process was in place to control the dust during the project. Misting devices were set up in front of the building to control dust by wetting everything down.

Three air monitoring devices were set up on the site to make sure asbestos didn't get airborne and drift away from the site.

Edwards said an alarm would notify crews immediately if there was elevated particles in the air.

"We can monitor all of our stations back at the office. If we had an elevated alarm, we can investigate immediately," Edwards said.

Once the demolition was complete, the remaining asbestos materials would be trucked off-site.

McQueer, the head of the community awareness group for Otsego, said she's pleased with the progress.

"We're one step closer to addressing some of the issues and some of the problems that's been here," McQueer said.