Remediate Toxic Debris From the Clemens Mansion Fire
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At 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12, residents of the St. Louis Place neighborhood emerged from their homes to see an inferno raging: the Clemens Mansion was burning, and the flames were almost 100 feet high. Fiery debris—some fragments were 7 inches long—rained down, falling on homes and threatening to burn down the surrounding neighborhood. Even though firefighters soaked the roofs of nearby houses, two homes on Helen Street caught fire.
The next morning, cars, yards, and homes were coated in gray ash. There were large black fragments lying everywhere. Tests by EOTS Mitigation LLC., paid for by neighborhood residents, confirmed the presence of asbestos. Callers to the City Health Department were told there was nothing the city could do, and there was no response from Paul McKee, the developer who owns the Clemens Mansion, other than a comment to the press that there was no asbestos in the building.
The contaminated debris has been found as far away as Hebert Street in Old North St. Louis. Children have been picking it up and playing with it. One neighbor was spotted using a leaf blower to blow it out of his yard. Aside from Third Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley and Fifth Ward Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge, city government has been silent. There has been zero guidance to residents about how to safely dispose of the debris. Contrast this with the Praxair fire of 2005 in Lafayette Square. Praxair knew there was asbestos in the fire debris, and two days after the accident dispatched a Haz-Mat crew in full protective gear and breathing masks to clean up residents' properties.
We feel that there is a terrible contrast between the response in 2005 to a similar crisis in a wealthy white neighborhood, versus this response to a less affluent, majority African-American neighborhood. Legally, it is Northside Regeneration's responsibility to clean up the debris. It is the City Health Department's responsibility to prevent risks to public health in dangerous situations such as this. We demand answers, guidance, and most importantly, cleanup of this dangerous debris which threatens the well-being and long-term health of the residents of St. Louis Place, JeffVanderLou, and Old North St. Louis.
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