BURLEY — The Environmental Protection Agency rolled into downtown Burley on Friday to begin asbestos cleanup at the site of a Jan. 29 arson fire.
The fire destroyed a building at 1222 Overland Ave. The adjacent building was damaged by water and both buildings were demolished because they were deemed unstable.
“EPA has determined that immediate action is necessary to minimize any potential health risks from debris-related asbestos fibers leaving the site,” the agency said in a statement.
The EPA will remove the asbestos contaminated debris, transport and disposes of it at an authorized landfill. The work will take about four weeks.
According to EPA documents, owner Brian Tibbets will be billed for the cleanup.
The EPA gave him until the end of July to start the clean-up himself, but it remained untouched.
Tibbets said in July he intended to start the cleanup but was still working on getting pricing from two companies.
“I won’t start the work until I find out how much it costs and I know I can afford it,” he said in previous interview.
Tibbets could not be reached on Friday for comment.
“It’s been a long wait and I know there have been a lot of concerns,” Stephen Ball, on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Idaho operations office, said. “Believe me, we are as happy to be here getting this done as anyone.”
About a dozen crew members will be at the scene cleaning up the debris.
Although the cleanup will be addressed under superfund authority, the site does not carry that designation.
“It falls under short term emergency cleanup,” Ball said.
The EPA will use a team of contractors, including a certified abatement crew, an industrial hygienist to take care of workers and a technical contractor that will monitor air quality and the workers during the removal.
“One of the best ways to protect workers and the community is to keep the site wet,” Ball said. That will be accomplished by spraying water along with a substance that resembles Elmer’s Glue, to bind up the debris.
“That way no emissions will blow around,” he said.
The cleanup will pose no danger to passing traffic or for nearby businesses, but people should be wary of the large equipment that is working at the site. The sidewalk and parking spaces near the site will be blocked during the work so equipment can get in and out.
“All necessary measures will be taken to ensure public safety,” Ball said.
Although the Milner landfill can accept asbestos materials, Ball does not know if that is where it will be taken.
“Once it falls to the EPA the landfill has to meet our requirements as well,” he said.
The fire itself remains under investigation. Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said no arrests have been made in the case and the sheriff’s office is still seeking help from the public to identify suspects released in photos and video.
After the fire, officials discovered a pipe bomb across the street in the doorway of a restaurant.
Anyone with information on the case can call the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stoppers at 208-878-2900, where the caller can remain anonymous.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives partnered with the Idaho State Fire Marshal in March to offer a combined reward of $15,000 for the arrest and conviction of the responsible parties.
Anyone with information on the fire or bomb can also call the ATF’s toll free hotline at 888-ATF-FIRE or 888-283-3473.
A tip can also be submitted through the ATF’s app available at reportit.com and at Google Play and the Apple App Store. Tips are confidential and can be anonymous.