Residents of Davidson, NC are faced with a difficult community decision as a Raleigh developer approaches the Westside neighborhood with hopes to build a commercial or residential development on the former Metrolina Warehouse LLC site. Concerns have been raised as the site was formerly the Linden Cotton Mill and, before that, it was an asbestos mill.

GreenHawk, the Raleigh developers, have opened talks with the community through several neighborhood meetings. Most residents have expressed concerns regarding asbestos, which is still buried under a portion of the site from its previous use as an asbestos mill. It has been noted that the previous owner of the site encapsulated the asbestos according to federal environmental standards and it had been certified as safe. Yet many residents retell stories of illnesses and deaths of family and friends from what they believed to be exposure to asbestos.

Many residents have rallied together and distributed fliers regarding the dangers of asbestos exposure from the proposed development, should GreenHawk decide to remove the asbestos currently on site. This flier notes, “The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases of the lungs and other organs that may not appear until years after the exposure occurs.” This fact is very true, as exposure to airborne asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, or asbestos cancer that can remain latent for many years and in many cases is terminal.

GreenHawk has been very responsive to the community concerns and has brought in many environmental specialists to speak with residents about the asbestos issue. GreenHawk currently leans toward the removal of the asbestos materials by a licensed asbestos abatement company and under the watchful eye of the EPA. Residents, however, are divided. Some residents express their desire to just leave the asbestos where it is – buried – where it can’t get into the air and do more damage. However, there is no guarantee that developing on the site would not compromise the integrity of the existing encapsulation.

The town residents and GreenHawk plan to arrange several more neighborhood meetings regarding the issue before any steps towards development are taken. Although they had not been contacted for previous meetings, town officials have been notified and plan to be part of further discussions.