Archive for Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Dilapidated house, barn make way for school

September 1, 2004

The abandoned farmhouse on the future Mize Middle School site clearly was not fit for anyone to inhabit.

But until last week, it wasn't fit to tear down, either.

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In keeping with Environmental Protection Agency requirements that say toxins must be safely extracted before buildings are razed, crews recently removed asbestos from the house on the north border of the site at 83rd Street and Mize Road. All facing 79th Street just west of the bridge, the house, a barn and several outbuildings will be demolished to make way for the De Soto USD 232 middle school and a possible future high school.

District facilities director Denis Johnson guessed the farmhouse was built around the 1930s. After the school district purchased the surrounding land, sampling revealed asbestos in the house's linoleum flooring and sheet rock joint filler, Johnson said.

That's what crews removed so that none would be left into the air, onto the ground or among the remaining debris when the house was razed.

Johnson said crews wore protective clothing for the removal process, which included sealing off the area, double-bagging toxic material and taking it to a special asbestos disposal area.

Until the 1970s, asbestos was a popular building material, renowned for its resistance to heat and corrosive chemicals.

"It's a great insulating product," Johnson said. "It's a great, durable product outside of the health concerns."

Typically appearing as whitish and fibrous, the mineral-based material may also release fibers too small to be seen with the naked eye. Overexposure to asbestos may cause scarring and cancer of the lungs and digestive tract.

With most of its buildings constructed in the past 10 years, De Soto hasn't had to worry much about asbestos, Johnson said.

"We're pretty fortunate that, with all of our newer buildings, we have very, very little left in the district," he said.

Built in 1964, Woodsonia Elementary School was the last place of concern, Johnson said, but all potentially dangerous asbestos was removed from that building two or three years ago.

On Aug. 2, the De Soto Board of Education approved a bid of about $3,600 by a company called Sunburst Group to remove asbestos from the house on the Mize property.

Construction is scheduled to begin on the new middle school in January 2006. Although no specific plans are in place, the district expects to eventually use the site for a new high school as well.

Built of wood with a now-crumbling limestone foundation, the stately, old red barn on the property is asbestos-free but will be torn down anyway.

The barn sits behind the house and towers more than three stories over the slope of a hill leading to a nearby creek.

Johnson said the district thought briefly about finding a way to restore the structure for educational use, but that would be fruitless.

"It's pretty dilapidated, " Johnson said. "It was a really neat old barn at one time, but it was just too far gone."

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