Another asbestos scare

20 December 2014 - Panic starts here

In 2012 authorities in the the Dutch town of Utrecht cordoned off an entire city street on account of asbestos contamination (Link). If you think that was over the top, the city of Roermond (population 57,000 and also in The Netherlands) did one better this week, they closed the entire city centre. For 4 days. This is what happened. On 16 December a fire destroyed a couple of sheds containing yachts. The roof contained asbestos and a large part of the city centre was contaminated (NOS). The authorities then proceeded to close down a large part of the centre, not allowing anyone in, closing all the shops and closing the train station. Cars and bicycles leaving the affected area were hosed down by the fire brigade and guys in white suits and respirators were seen pretending to clean pavements. In 2012 the Utrecht locals were forcibly evacuated, luckily in 2014 the Roermond locals were only ordered to take of their shoes on entering their homes (NRC).

Does this operation make sense? Plenty of rain should ultimately wash away most of the asbestos, collecting in the waterways. The fire department efforts may help. As long the asbestos fibers are in an aquatic environment they are harmless. But what about asbestos collecting in gutters and parks? Cleaning that up classified as chemical waste is going to cost a lot of money, with a questionable impact on health. If a overreaction award exists the Roermond mayor is sure to win.