Changing asbestos rules force cancellation of annual cleanup

The regular spring cleanup held each year at Mount Tabor Middle School since 2000 won’t happen this year.

Until March 30, the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association and North Tabor Neighborhood Association had been planning to co-host the cheap reuse, recycling and trash drop-off as usual. But tighter restrictions from Metro and the state about disposal of old construction materials led to the difficult decision to cancel.

We expect the cleanup to be back next year, or maybe even sooner, once we’ve been able to adjust to the new rules.

The nearby Richmond Neighborhood Association will hold a similar event on Saturday, May 21, at Central Christian Church, 1844 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd. North Tabor residents might consider attending it this year instead, but be ready for long lines.

We apologize for bearing this bad news. We’ll be working on simple new rules of our own, simplifying what can and can’t be dropped off, to keep this useful and money-saving get-together alive and well for future years. The cleanup is a 15-year-old institution; a fun, useful and money-saving annual get-together; and the primary source of revenue for both our organizations, so it wasn’t a choice we made lightly.

 

Additional Information:
 
Will the neighborhood cleanup happen in future years?
Yes, we’re pretty sure the cleanup will happen again. Maybe this fall, or maybe next spring on its usual schedule. If so it’ll have new rules about what we can accept.

Why is this spring’s cleanup being canceled?
Because of new restrictions from Metro on what materials can be accepted and what happens if anything inappropriate slips past.

The rules have an understandable goal: reducing everyone’s exposure to asbestos from old building materials. But they’ve also had this unintended consequence.

Unlike in past years, neighborhoods have been given an explicit warning from Metro that if our landfill loads include any of a wide variety of building materials (vinyl flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, even painted wood that was at some point part of a building) then the whole loads could be rejected and we would face unexpected bills for thousands of dollars to cover the cost of getting rid of them.

We’ve been told that Metro’s change was the result of newly tightened state rules governing asbestos in building materials, and that these rules were tightened in response to people concerned about the impact of home demolitions.

Wouldn’t it be possible to hold a cleanup but avoid accepting any asbestos-related stuff?
Yes, but not on 30 days’ notice. A cleanup with major new restrictions would require spreading the word about the rule change widely in the neighborhood and training volunteers to evaluate all materials that arrive in the parking lot.

Our working plan is to create a new, more restrictive set of rules for future Mount Tabor Middle School cleanups, probably along these lines:

  • No construction materials of any kind that have ever been physically part of a building
  • Nothing in trash bags or anything else that makes it impossible to see what it is
  • No yard waste (this is actually a separate restriction).
But we don’t have time to change course now, so unfortunately we’re canceling this year’s event.

Other neighborhoods, including the nearby Richmond neighborhood, are currently still planning to hold theirs. But expect long lines there.

Will this threaten the financial health of the Mount Tabor or North Tabor neighborhood associations?
No. Thanks to our negligible operating costs and the popularity of last year’s cleanup, we’ll be fine for a year.

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