Asbestos shingles removed from Sevier County courthouse

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 11:18 PM

There are signs at the Sevier County Courthouse warning about the presence of asbestos, but the material is in shingles being replaced on the building’s roof and isn’t a threat to people who stay out of restricted areas, according to county spokesman Perrin Anderson.

Some shingles on the two older parts of the roof — the original building and the 1971 addition — contained asbestos, Anderson explained. County officials were aware of the presence, and removal and remediation of the material were included in the contract to replace the roof.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction at one time because of its strength and heat resistance. However, later testing showed it could increase the risk of lung disease, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

According to information from the Environmental Protection Agency, it can be released due to disturbances of materials containing asbestos, particularly during demolition work or repair or remodeling of buildings. “In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some ay to release particles and fibers in the air,” according to the EPA website.

In this case, the asbestos isn’t believed to be inside the building, Anderson explained. The roof is separated by several layers from the main floors of the courthouse that remain in use.

“It’s not a danger to people who are inside the courthouse because it’s limited to the actual roofing shingles,” he said.

The shingles are being collected and bagged as they’re removed, he said, and placed in a separate bin for disposal.

The outdoor areas where the roofers are working are roped off as a precaution, both because of the danger that one of the workers could drop something and because of the presence of asbestos in some of the materials. As long as people stay out of those restricted areas, he said, there shouldn’t be any danger to them.

“It’s not affecting people who need to come to get stuff done in the courthouse,” he said.