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Open-air demolition process reduces price tag by more than 50%

For five years, Schafer conducted extensive research and worked a complex series of proposals with the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Several abatement and demolition firms bid on the project, intending to use traditional methods, fully containing the structure in poly sheeting and then demolishing the structures after all asbestos had been removed. The costs were astronomical, ranging from $7.3 million to $11 million.

Earth Services & Abatement (ESA) proposed an alternate plan that might, if successful, save Amalgamated millions of dollars.

Central to the problem was the mill building. According to Rod Schafer, the building was like a city within itself. “It housed its own powerplant, huge boilers and rusted machinery. The upper floors were collapsing. Engineers and the local fire department assessed the building, and calculated what would be necessary to rebuild parts of the structure to make it sound enough to proceed with the asbestos abatement,” Schafer said. The customary method for abating the mill building would have been first to enclose it, abate the asbestos and then demolish the building. However, there were tremendous safety concerns related to abating the main mill structure. Walls were collapsing, floors had dangerous penetrations and handrails were mangled and broken. In short: it was unsafe to abate. ESA thought there must be a safer way that would also be more cost-effective, so ESA teamed up with Schafer and CDPHE to devise a safer process that would cut costs by several million dollars.

ESA had two main challenges: get the local landfill to approve a one-time asbestos permit to accept the waste so that trucks would not have to haul the material three hours each way, and convince CDPHE to approve a variance that allowed for demolition of the mill with the asbestos still inside. Working collaboratively with CDPHE, ESA was able to do both. ESA’s 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 that the 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.

“Here’s where ESA is truly unique,” said Schafer. “ESA project manager Robert Szynskie used to work within regulatory agencies and as a consultant. So he knows both sides of the equation. His extensive experience working with the CDPHE made him instrumental to obtaining the variance we needed.” In addition, ESA co-owner Kory Mitchell serves as president of the Colorado Environmental Professionals Association, which works closely with CDPHE on regulatory issues.

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