Boulder City Bypass Project Will Resume Despite Naturally Occurring Asbestos Found in Soil and Rock

A bypass construction project that was delayed by the discovery of naturally-occurring asbestos has Boulder City residents concerned about exposure to the harmful toxin, but officials from the Nevada Transportation Department have attempted to assuage the worries by assuring locals that they are doing everything in their power to ensure there is no health risk.

Construction of the 15-mile bypass, which will reroute traffic around Boulder City, was put on hold in December when a geology researcher from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found trace amounts of asbestos in the area’s soil. The discovery – a “bombshell,” according to Governor Brian Sandoval – nearly put an end to the entire project, as the presence of the naturally occurring toxin could endanger workers, travelers, and inhabitants of the area.

A recent public meeting at the Elaine K. Smith Center offered a venue for those concerned to voice their opinions and to ask questions of a panel of seven experts. The Nevada Transportation Department’s environmental services manager Steve Cooke explained that it isn’t the presence of asbestos within soil or rock that is problematic, but rather the tendency for asbestos to become airborne in dust form when disturbed. Cooke said that the plan to combat the release of the toxin is to keep the area wet, which is the typical method used during abatement projects.

Already, the Transportation Department has begun ambient air monitoring of 12 sites surrounding the future bypass. The purpose of this monitoring is to establish a baseline; daily readings will be taken over the next few years to monitor the level of asbestos concentration in the air.

Construction workers will be required to wear disposable Tyvek suits, and any construction vehicles in the area will travel at low speeds to ensure minimal disturbance of the asbestos-containing rock and soil.

For the most part, concerned Boulder City residents and commuters questioned how the department planned to deal with the windy spring weather; with the project slated to begin in May, the area’s reputable winds could prove problematic. Cooke eased this worry by assuring the meeting’s attendees that the construction project would be suspended on extremely windy days.

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