HUDSON — The Hudson Housing Authority is trying to find a qualified abatement company to remove asbestos from several vacant apartments at Bliss Towers, the city’s main affordable housing complex.
The toxic mineral has been found in floor tiles and in drywall materials appearing in several offline apartments. Currently, asbestos is not considered harmful because it is not friable, which means the hazardous material cannot transmit toxic fibers into the air.
“There are a number of places in the building where there may be asbestos,” said Nick Zachos, acting executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority. The HHA must remove all asbestos from Bliss Towers prior to becoming compliant for rental assistance demonstration.
Rental Assistance Demonstration is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program that enables public housing agencies such as HHA to address unmet financial need so housing remains affordable for low-income families.
Although the HHA has stated that asbestos is not an immediate concern for residents of the building, no one is actively monitoring asbestos to see if anything has changed.
A tenant waiting for the elevator to arrive at Bliss Towers was hesitant to comment, fearing talking about asbestos would provoke retaliation at a time when housing insecurity is a concern.
“It wouldn’t be right to worry about asbestos here because there are too many other issues with this building,” said another resident. A woman walking with a cart overheard the conversation, laughed in agreement, and said, “One day it’s COVID, the next day it’s asbestos.”
According to a spokesperson for Paradigm Environmental, an asbestos testing service in Latham, asbestos becomes dangerous once the toxic fibers become airborne.
“I don’t think any rodent could have the power to pound it enough to make it toxic to the residents of the building,” she said. “As long as the asbestos isn’t broken or the tile isn’t broken, it should be fine, but there’s no way to know for sure without looking at it.”
No tenant wants to hear that asbestos persists in their building. Especially because there are no federal regulations that identify a safe time period for being exposed to asbestos. The bottom line is that asbestos, if inhaled, can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“It’s not a great living situation,” said Michelle Tullo, director of Hudson Housing Justice. “I understand that Nick and his team are trying to fix it.”
Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring stone minerals that are all stronger than steel and fire resistant. In the 1970s, the federal government established that the United States Environmental Protection Agency would be responsible for regulating asbestos in the United States. A national asbestos ban does not exist.
Zachos and the Hudson Housing Authority do not know when the asbestos will be completely eradicated from the building. It’s also unclear whether current residents will have to leave temporarily for security reasons when the actual eradication finally takes place.