What's A Little Toxic Sludge Between Friends?

Wheww. It appears they've found the barrels of toxic waste that went missing in January from the demolition of the University's Medical Science Research Building. This hasn't assuaged the concerns of subcontractor Southern Site & Environmental Corporation, who apparently took the barrels away to test them, after having their complaints about the presence of toxic waste at the site rebuffed. According the firm's lawyer, they found mercury and arsenic after being assured that the site was safe. The company believes the University has broken state law by exposing its workers to the toxic waste; the University says the waste was well-contained and that workers had been instructed to stay away from it. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is investigating.

[The subcontractor] expressed their concerns last Thursday in a letter to Doug Holyfield, director of compliance for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In the letter, Unti outlined some of the hazardous materials that they say workers discovered on the site and said that the school was "responsible for delivering a site free of hazardous materials prior to the demolition."

Southern Site tried, representatives said, to get a report from Quantum about their findings. Gabriel said they were unable to get the information and Southern Site ended up ordering private lab tests of sludge found in pipes removed from the site.

Those tests reveal heavy concentrations of mercury and arsenic, Gabriel and Unti said. They're concerned that workers might have been exposed, and that materials were improperly dumped at Coble Landfill in Alamance County.

"We're not trying to grind any axes," Gabriel said. "We're just a million-and-a-half-a-year company. Our company's been damaged by this."

State environmental officials are looking into the matter and have expressed concerns about locating the missing containers. It was unclear whether any fines would be levied or any charges filed.- , ahref="http://www.herald-sun.com/state/6-457323.html">Durham Herald-Sun, 3/11/04


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