Patience needed while asbestos at Sawyer is handled

Amid frustration and anger as summer approaches, we’re urging owners of recreational vehicles and boats at two K.I. Sawyer storage buildings to be calm and patient while contamination issues are resolved.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians officials hope to be able to release boats and recreation vehicles stored in buildings 421 and 422 to their owners later this month – before the Fourth of July holiday – but first they need to deal with asbestos problems in the structures.

The Sault Tribe owns the two roughly 40,000-square-foot buildings, where disrupted asbestos was discovered this spring. The tribe had been leasing the buildings commercially for the past two and a half years to a temporary storage business. In February, the buildings were repossessed by the tribe after the owner got behind on rent and taxes.

The tribe has been working to identify owners of the property but no one has been allowed to take items out of storage, which has led to some frustration.

Tribal officals said they know property owners are getting restless and “understand just how precious these warm summer days are.”

Bids for addressing the asbestos were awarded late last week. But while asbestos abatement work could start as soon as next week, the process will take time, money and care. Asbestos is classified as a hazardous air pollutant. If the tribe doesn’t deal with the problem correctly, it could face fines.

And while asbestos contamination is relatively common, tests have discovered unusually high levels of the substance in the Sawyer buildings. The tribe expects to spend in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $300,000 to clean the mess up. Clearly, the Sault Tribe is committed to the project.

Property owners could more reasonably be angry with the person or persons who stripped the storage buildings of copper wire and pipes at some point in the past. It’s possible these scavengers created the asbestos problem the tribe is now cleaning up.

Local law enforcement officials are probing the copper theft, but also break-ins by presumed owners of stored property. Three police reports have been made, according to the tribe.

Property owners should, of course, refrain from breaking the law to retrieve their items, and wait until the area is asbetos free. We urge the tribe to move the clean-up process along as quickly as possible, so everyone can get on with their summer recreation.