Maquoketa, Iowa, is a beautiful city located south of Dubuque along the Maquoketa River. The town has long been revered as “picturesque” with its array of historical sites, mysterious caves and unique land formations; quiet residential lifestyle and a downtown district with specialty shops, antique stores and restaurants still offering “old-fashioned” service, but there is one eyesore the town has been dealing with for a year, and it may be years before the town can afford to do anything about it.

One year ago a raging fire destroyed a half-block of Maquoketa’s business district “downtown” area. Although there were no injuries or deaths associated with the blaze, three historic buildings were destroyed. The pile of rubble from the fire remains even a year later. Federal and state officials decided that because the buildings dated before 1800, that asbestos was probably used in their construction. They also believe that the fire and water used to extinguish it likely caused the cancer-causing agent (asbestos) to be spread throughout the site.

Asbestos abatement and cleanup is costly. In this situation, regulations called for highly specialized handling of the materials, something insurance companies wouldn’t pay for. With no private or public money available, the city of Maquoketa has decided to seek federal and state assistance, but it could take many more months to learn if they will receive the funding.

There is no question that proper handling of asbestos cleanup is essential due to mesothelioma, a terminal lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and other asbestos-related illnesses. But the cost of proper handling is too much for many cities and many private homeowners. KOAA news in Pueblo County, CO just announced that commissioners spent $6.6 million on cleanup efforts of an asbestos-containing building destroyed by fire in October of 2007. That is a lot of taxpayer dollars. In the end, the county plans to spend $40 million to redevelop the property.

This is money that Maquoketa residents and the town don’t have to spare. State and federal funding for asbestos cleanups is limited and large EPA action,s are usually awarded to huge environmental cleanup sites like you find in Libby and Bozeman Montana. It is easy to feel defeated when faced with proper asbestos removal, especially as a private homeowner who has to pay thousands for it, but it is important to the health and safety of everyone that proper asbestos removal be utilized.

Before you take asbestos removal into your own hands, which can and will be punished by law if caught, take the time to learn about the effects of asbestos exposure and realize the long-term effects it could have not only on you, but also on others who may be accidentally exposed. Visit the Mesothelioma Video Library to hear true accounts from victims of the cancer mesothelioma.