HAMILTON - The soil around the former W.R. Grace & Co. factory here that produced attic insulation for decades was contaminated with such high levels of asbestos that federal environmental regulators recently declared it an "imminent and substantial threat" to current workers at the site and the surrounding community.
Dirt sampled at the site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between 2000 and 2001 showed concentrations of asbestos as high as 40 percent in some surface soils on the property, according to an internal EPA report.
Three years after the agency's initial sampling, contractors overseen by the EPA began digging up dirt at the Zonolite site on Industrial Drive. Over the course of five months, they removed more than 9,000 tons of contaminated soil from the property and trucked it to an out-of-state landfill.
The EPA investigation stood in stark contrast to the environmental report filed by W.R. Grace when it closed the site in the mid-1990s.
A consultant hired by the company to assess contamination at the site reported only trace amounts of asbestos on the property, so little of the hazardous material that they asserted it was unnecessary to take soil samples on much of the site.
The state Department of Environmental Protection accepted the company's report and declared the site clean. Five years later, the Accurate Document Destruction Inc. shredding company moved its operations onto the property.
"W.R. Grace said there was no asbestos above 1 percent on the site and that wasn't true," said Richard Cahill, a spokesman for the EPA's Region II office. "We found it was inaccurate by doing sampling on the site."
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