Oregon Mill Fire Spread Debris, Asbestos

August 21, 2014

A fire at a Springfield plywood mill last month spread debris and ash to a few dozen residential properties, including two at which asbestos has been confirmed.

Asbestos was in the plant’s roofing as well as around the steam pipes as insulation, said Chuck Wert, executive vice president of Swanson Group.

“There was more than what we originally thought,” he told the Eugene Register-Guard.

Nearly 40 people reported debris on their properties, and owners of 27 asked for cleanup.

Wert says a contractor has cleaned up debris at 16 residences, the cleanup is underway at two more, and nine properties remain to be done.

Asbestos was used for decades as fire retardant and insulation. It is a mineral fiber that can damage the lungs if people inhale it.

Air monitoring at both properties where asbestos was confirmed showed clean results, Wert said.

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency has issued an abatement permit for removing asbestos waste from the plant.

It’s primarily ash from roofing and plywood. Workers will wrap it “burrito-style in 6-millimeter plastic” and bury it at the county landfill, said agency spokeswoman Jo Niehaus.

Employees reported the July 17 fire began in a veneer dryer and spread rapidly. Officials say their investigation may take a year.

Wert has said it would cost more than $100 million and up to two years to rebuild, and whether that’s done depends on the insurer’s settlement offer, yet to be made.

About 250 workers were displaced. Wert said 50 found new jobs within the company.

Kristina Payne, executive director of Lane Workforce Partnership, said several more were hired on the spot at a July 30 job fair attended by more than 150 workers and 20 employers.

“People felt like there were job opportunities in our community, and they are a sought-after work force,” she said.

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