Asbestos was discovered early in March in the Sumner Courthouse when a cleanup crew was doing some mold remediation as a part of the $350,000 that was being used to make upgrades to the courthouse on the Square and the Juvenile Courthouse in Gallatin. Since discovering the asbestos, up to $200,000 of emergency funds have been allocated to clean the asbestos from the courthouse and the adult probation building in Gallatin, according to officials.
The money to remove the asbestos was approved by the budget committee members and was granted based on an estimate that was given by county Grant Administrator, Kim Ark. The money will come out of the $70 million bond that was approved in 2015. Ark said that the asbestos cleanup will be finished no later than April.
Asbestos used to be thought of as an incredible product because it seemed to be great for construction because it was inexpensive, a great insulator and is incredibly resistant to heat. Asbestos was widely used in a variety of buildings, with the Sumner Courthouse being one of them.
If the asbestos is disturbed, tiny fibers are released into the air and that can then be inhaled. Asbestos can lead to very severe and fatal illnesses, including lung disease and mesothelioma, which is an aggressive type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The latency period for mesothelioma is incredibly long, and can take anywhere from 20-40 years for symptoms to develop.
The mold remediation on the courthouse has been halted until the asbestos can be safely removed. The asbestos was found in the boiler room and also on the basement floor tile, air handler unit closet tile and ceiling spray at the adult probation building. Also, some water line insulation also tested positive for asbestos at the courthouse. Officials said that they will not disturb the waterline though, since it was installed in 1939 and is almost ready to be replaced.
Ark said, “We’re currently doing an evaluation of all of our county buildings for maintenance issues and replacing the water line will be on the priority list. Some of the floor tile also tested positive for asbestos but we’re also not disturbing it and as long as you’re not disturbing the asbestos, there’s no exposure.”
It is not unusual to have found asbestos in the courthouse, since it is almost 80 years old. The EPA did not ban using most asbestos-containing materials until 1973-1989. Sumner County Executive, Anthony Holt said, “It is not all over the place. We’ll clean it up before anybody is exposed to anything dangerous. We don’t want to take any chances so it does not become a health hazard.”