Many older homes contain asbestos, a known carcinogen, which can pose a health hazard to residents who are demolishing or renovating their homes, as well as contractors and volunteers aiding with disaster recovery. “You have to be very careful, and always use protective clothing,” Ford said.
According to the EPA, homeowners should contact state or local public health authorities if they believe a damaged building contains asbestos. The EPA strongly recommends that all renovations involving materials that contain asbestos be handled by trained personnel.
“Everybody is pretty much gutting their houses now … I guess the good side is that there has been a outpouring of kindness,” said Wyoming Avenue resident Rich Papetti. “We probably had more sewage from Bay Park — that should be everyone’s concern, and that’s why a lot of people are tearing up their floors because they were told what [the water] was mixed with.”
Bay Park discharge a concern
The city’s water and sewer systems were rendered inoperable by Hurricane Sandy, and for more than a week Nassau County health officials warned residents that the tap water was not safe to use. Water and sewer services have since been restored and deemed safe.
“The sewer system backed up due to storm water infiltration, not because the sewage backed up,” said Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba. “There may have been some sewage in [the flood water] as a result of the storm surge.”
LaCarrubba and City Manager Jack Schnirman stressed that any discharge from Nassau County’s Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant had no impact on the city’s drinking water, which comes from the Lloyd Aquifer.
Still, Roy Lester and other residents expressed concerns about the level of pollution in the floodwater and potential “lingering” health concerns. “You could see the sewage coming up through the manhole covers for days afterward,” Lester said.
“When the floodwater came into Long Beach … all of that sewage water and E. coli and everything else came over the bay,” said Scott Bochner, an environmentalist and a member of Operation SPLASH. “All of that water was totally sewage water, with oil and transmission fluid and everything else … [A]ll of that went into people’s houses.”