No Dangerous Asbestos Found After Mall Demo Complaint

No Dangerous Asbestos Found After Mall Demo Complaint
A contractor is pictured applying a liquid to the demolished materials at the former Ocean Plaza Mall this week. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — The major demolition of the Ocean Plaza Mall at 94th Street continued this week despite a formal complaint filed about possible asbestos contamination.

Last week, a private contractor began demolishing the long dormant Ocean Plaza Mall at 94th Street. The anchor stores including the existing Rose’s department store and Acme grocery store will remain in place, as will existing businesses on the outparcels on the site, but the rest of the L-shaped indoor mall portion is being torn down.

Just a few days into the process, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) received a complaint about possible asbestos contamination caused by the demolition. The MDE investigated the complaint this week and determined while there are likely asbestos-containing materials in the old mall building, it was not the variety considered dangerous to public health.

“We received a complaint about asbestos possibly being at the site,” said MDE Deputy Communications Director Jay Apperson on Wednesday. “We investigated this and it is our understanding that the asbestos is non-friable and is not being made friable by the demolition.”

Friable asbestos is a term used to describe any asbestos-containing material that, when dry, can be easily crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand. In other terms, friable asbestos refers to any type of brittle asbestos that can crumble with little force or pressure.

By contrast, non-friable asbestos is hard to break into smaller pieces, even under duress such as a building demolition, in this case. Nonetheless, some experts suggest non-friable asbestos should be handled with caution and disposed of properly as it can become friable under certain conditions.

Meanwhile, the demolition project continued this week with vast sections of the old indoor mall north of the Acme grocery store coming down quickly. On Tuesday afternoon, a worker in a hazardous material suit was seen hosing down the area being demolished and a sign on the fencing around the project warned it was an asbestos work area.

Apperson said the MDE would continue to monitor the project, but there was no immediate concern about the presence of friable asbestos at the site.

“Friable asbestos is the concern, as it means the asbestos can release fibers into the air and create a health hazard,” he said. “We will be conducting further inspections of the demolition.”

Last week, the property developer said the demolition of the old mall was not a signal a major redevelopment of the property was imminent. Instead, the property, long considered an eyesore on the uptown landscape was merely being cleared for aesthetic and public safety reasons.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.