The long-awaited demolition of large numbers of derelict barracks at Camp Roberts has begun. The army camp was once the largest training camp in California, and was rapidly constructed during the 1940s to accommodate the buildup needed to World War II.
Many of the 650 buildings set for demolition contain hazardous construction materials, like asbestos and lead-based paint, and the materials must be specially handled to dispose of them safely.
Camp Roberts is located on Highway 101, north of San Luis Obispo, and has housed thousands of troops over the last 70 years. Currently operated by the California National Guard, portions of the Camp are still serving troops in barracks that had been renovated over the last 20 years.
The $20 million demolition process at Camp Roberts is similar to many cases of buildings from that era, with so much asbestos and lead paint in the debris that the Army was forced to build a special hazardous waste landfill on the grounds to save the expense of hauling the material long distances.
Asbestos was used in roofing shingles, ceiling tile, floor tile, plaster and wallboard, steam and water pipe insulation and as electrical insulation. The ubiquity of its use by the military and other industries is one reason so many veterans have developed asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
The long latency period for these diseases is unsettling, like a long-delayed fuse ticking away in many veterans bodies, 20, 30 and 40 years after they may have been exposed to the deadly fibers.
Source: Asbestos.com, “Demolition of Camp Roberts Ends Army’s Asbestos Era in California,” Tim Povtak, December 18, 2012