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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 19 - 25, 2003


Does Elkhorn asbestos pose health threat?

1996 report identified six
contaminated areas

Express Staff Writer

As Sun Valley city officials Tuesday prepared to issue a final permit for the demolition of the Elkhorn Resort, some Elkhorn Village property owners remained concerned that asbestos at the site could pose a public health threat.

Some Elkhorn residents during the permit application process expressed wariness about asbestos in the buildings scheduled to be razed in coming weeks by resort owner CG-Elkhorn LLC.

Other residents have expressed a broadening concern in recent weeks, as the extensive demolition project drew closer.

"I wish I wasn’t in town (during this)," said Dorris Gathrid, an Elkhorn Village resident.

Asbestos inhalation has been determined to cause various health disorders, including a rare form of cancer called malignant mesothelioma.

For most, the concern about the demolition project stems directly from the building’s history. Johns-Manville Corp., formerly one of the world’s leading asbestos manufacturers, was a partner in the development of the 132-unit Elkhorn Hotel in the early 1970s.

However, David Hennessy, demolition project manager for CG-Elkhorn, said the early 1970s brought a gradual phase-out of the use of asbestos in building projects nationwide.

Hennessy said asbestos was used in the construction of some of the buildings at Elkhorn Resort, but not in large amounts. "The amount of asbestos in buildings of this size is very, very minor," he said.

Hennessy explained that an extensive survey of so-called "Asbestos Containing Materials" was conducted at the resort property in 1996. He said the project identified several locations in which asbestos was found.

The June 1996 study by Boise-based Materials Testing and Inspection, Inc. listed six specific areas where asbestos was found among 105,000 square feet of buildings at the Elkhorn Resort site. Former resort owner Milton G. Kuolt II commissioned the report.

The report identified asbestos in sheet vinyl in the resort’s golf-course maintenance building, the former Jesse’s Kitchen restaurant, the Plaza Grill bar, and a kitchenette in the resort‘s conference building. It also cited findings of asbestos in the mastic (adhesive) beneath the floor tiles in the Jesse’s site and the former Elkhorn General Store on the village plaza.

Three of the six sites were identified with a "high" hazard ranking of six points on a seven-point scale, while the remaining areas were designated with a hazard ranking of three points.

Numerous other sites suspected to possibly contain asbestos were determined to have none, the report notes.

An executive summary of the report states: "Prior to renovation or demolition of this building, measures must be taken to notify the US EPA."

Hennessy said CG-Elkhorn last year had the 1996 asbestos survey updated, and last April hired a private contractor to remove the dangerous asbestos-containing materials.

The work conducted by Twin Falls-based Metcalf Abatement focused on the materials identified in Jesses’s Kitchen.

Hennessy noted that a large section of floor tile in the general store was not required to be removed because the materials contained less than 1-percent asbestos. In addition, he said the asbestos in the golf-course maintenance building has not been treated because that building will not be razed.

"All that paperwork was filed with the EPA," he said.

E.C. Cullen, asbestos coordinator for Boise-based Industrial Hygiene Resources, a contractor for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said procedures for the project have been followed so far.

Cullen said he will keep an eye on the demolition project to ensure that proper procedures are followed, but will not monitor it on a daily basis. He said he "might do an unannounced inspection" of the site, and will be available to respond to "a legitimate complaint."

Cullen explained that not all identified asbestos is required to be removed from the buildings before they are demolished. He said only asbestos that is "friable," meaning it can become airborne, must be removed under federally mandated regulations and brought to an approved landfill.

The city generally approved the demolition project last month. However, work at the site has been limited so far because a final permit was delayed while CG-Elkhorn and the city negotiated a "financial security agreement" to cover any project-related costs imposed on the public.

Dan Pincetich, Sun Valley city administrator, said Tuesday that the matter was close to being resolved. "We expect it to happen today," he said Tuesday.

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