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Q & A: Diane Pierce

Asbestos Coordinator for the Shelby County Health Department

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On November 6th, one of the city's most notorious big empties will come crashing down. The 21-story Baptist Hospital in the Medical Center will be cleared to make way for the new University of Tennessee-Baptist Research Park, a 1.3-million-square-foot biotech complex.

Chandler Demolition, the local company responsible for the implosion, has been working since May to prepare the building for demolition. They've stripped walls, ceilings, and wiring, and have also removed more than 1,000 tons of asbestos from the building.

Diane Pierce is responsible for inspecting the building to ensure all asbestos has been properly removed.

-- by Bianca Phillips

Flyer: What role does the health department play in the implosion?

Pierce: The demolition company is required to notify the health department as to how they plan to remove the debris after implosion. They also have to tell us where they plan to take the asbestos [that's removed before implosion]. It must go to an asbestos-approved landfill. Then we make inspections to make sure they are removing the asbestos correctly.

Have you inspected this project?

We've performed about 15 to 20 inspections there. The last one was at the end of September. This building is definitely free of asbestos.

Where will they be disposing of the asbestos?

There are several landfills that are asbestos-approved. They'll be using BFI in Millington and Waste Management in Mississippi.

What are the health hazards if they didn't remove the asbestos?

Exposure to fibers of asbestos can cause lung cancer, asbestosis [a lung disease that makes breathing difficult], mesothelioma [a cancer of the membranes that line the chest and abdomen], scarring of lung tissue, and all kinds of respiratory diseases.

Are there any health hazards from the dust created by implosion?

No. The good thing about implosion is the control of dust. Chandler Demolition had to submit a dust control plan to us.

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