POSTED NOVEMBER, 2012
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Alvarez
Atlantic Strike Team
National Strike Force
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Morrow Power Plant consists of a nine story structure and several dilapidated buildings on approximately twenty acres in Kalamazoo and needed to be made safe for salvage crews.
On October 9, 2012, U.S. EPA Region Five requested Atlantic Strike Team assistance to identify hazards associated with the materials on site, to conduct air monitoring, site safety, sampling, and disposal documentation at the plant.
The plant was decommissioned in the late 1990s and sold to a salvage company with the intent to recover scrap metal. In September 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency conducted a site walk-through with contractors and documented significant amounts of asbestos in a potentially dangerous state in and around the building as well as 120 drums of unknown materials.
Site safety was one of the primary concerns on the response. The main building was had been partially scrapped and presented countless safety hazards, and holes in the ninth-level flooring presented a fall hazard. Other hazards included missing or damaged catwalk guardrails and stair railings, and missing walkway gratings in high traffic areas.
In addition to site safety, the AST was tasked with air monitoring. Each day, the team deployed four Data Rams to monitor for suspended atmospheric particulates and four pumps to sample for asbestos in the air around the perimeter of the building. When they entered the building, AST members carried a gas detector, to monitor for any changes in the air quality, and a radiation detection pager to ensure all personnel on site were working in safe conditions. All personnel inside the building conducted work in Level C protective clothing. Level C consists of a protective suit, chemical resistant boots, an air purifying respirator, and a hardhat.
“This is a great site for our team to assist EPA Region Five,” said Lt. Kristen Potter, the assigned response officer from the Atlantic Strike Team. “It offers AST members the ability to take skills learned in unit training and apply them in the field.”
Potter also said the chance to work with EPA on a regular basis allows AST members to build and nurture relationships with their EPA counterparts.
Jeff Kimble, the EPA Region Five On-Scene Coordinator for the response, said that having the AST members’ professionalism and technical expertise on scene ensures safety protocols are followed at all times.
“Their knowledge and ability to make Level C entries into the building provide the extra set of eyes inside a dangerous environment,” said Kimble.
“The World’s Best Responders: Any Time, Any Place, Any Hazard.”