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EPA updates residents on asbestos exposure | News

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EPA updates residents on asbestos exposure
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) --  Asbestos found in one North Little Rock neighborhood has residents concerned their health is at risk.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says traces of the hazardous material have been discovered at Conley Park, the North Little Rock Auto Salvage Site and in the Dixie Community.

The North Little Rock Salvage Site is not an operating business anymore but from 1953 to 1989, it was a vermiculite processing facility. That vermiculite came from a mine in Libby, Montana which was later found to be infected with asbestos.

The EPA has been conducting testing throughout the surrounding area since last summer and tonight told residents traces of the material have been found but the health risk is minimal. However, residents that live in the area disagree.

It is a sight that has struck fear in the heart of a community, EPA scientists in hazmat suits digging through soil across the neighborhood. It is not the white suits that worry Dixie residents but what those suits may find in their own front yards.

"To me, it's a cover up. It was a lot of questions but no answers.They could end up stricken with some sort of cancer and not even know why," says Brigette Williams who she grew up in Dixie, watching illness take her friends and family, one by one.

"They was healthy people and then all of a sudden they was stricken with cancer and then by the time they got treated, it was too late and they ended up passing away," says Williams.

Cancer, Williams believes, caused by what the EPA is finding beneath the soil.

"We found some asbestos in the soil at Conley Park which we removed last February," says Althea Foster, Spokesperson for the EPA.

She says testing continues in the Dixie Community for traces of asbestos and while some has been found, the risk to residents is minimal.

"In the southern part of the community, the community that's south of the site, we have found some samples, or some soil samples that are actionable and that we plan to remove," says Foster.

Removal that Williams says may be too late, leaving only worry and suspicion behind.

"They said it was asbestos and they claim it wasn't hazardous and that they dug up everything that they was suppose to dug up and they replaced it and this, this, and that but I just feel like, you know, there's more to it than that," says Williams.

The Arkansas Health Department addressed residents at the community meeting Tuesday night and say statistics in the Dixie Community zip code over a ten year period indicate 3% of residents being diagnosed with lung cancer, the main health issue related to asbestos. They say that number-in and of itself- does not indicate a significant health risk for residents.

As for the contaminated vermiculite mine in Libby Montana, officials say more than 200 people have died since being exposed to the material there.

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