A recent report by Klamath Falls, Oregon-based Herald and News sheds light on the plight of one North Ridge couple struggling to cope with the impact of a 12-year-old asbestos contamination clean up in the backyard of the husband and wife’s dream retirement home. According to the article, officials with the clean up effort promised the couple a two-to-three-year time period to complete the project, but the initiative has lingered on for over a decade.
Situated near the former original campus for Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), the couple’s North Ridge Estates home is part of 171 acres of land contaminated by a land developer’s botched demolition of OIT buildings constructed with asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried for years to clean up the site on its own but had no success.
Area residents successfully litigated a class action lawsuit against the developer, securing $14 million dollars for victims affected by the defendant’s disregard for public safety. While the couple and this story and many others were compensated for their damages, the amount was not enough to allow the pair to settle in a new location.
Unfortunately, the husband and wife mentioned in the story financed their home upfront and could neither cash out equity to buy a new home or even sell the one they currently live in. What started out as a “dream home” soon became a living nightmare for the two, with little options to escape the now desolate landscape they inhabit.
As part of the clean up effort, the defendant removed an estimated 900-trees and removed two-feet of topsoil from the area. Once a lush forest, ripe with privacy now looks like a place where a “bomb went off,” according to the couple. For several months, the two will need to live in a nearby resort home while clean up crews demolish the home’s driveway, deck, and hot tub to remove as much of the contaminated soil near the home as possible.
Area Declared a Superfund Site in 2011
In 2011, the EPA declared the area Superfund site prioritized for decontamination. The EPA allocated an estimated $35 million for a three-year clean up project that should be completed by next year.
Sadly, nothing may be able to make up for the emotional harm the couple in this story feel everyday as they contemplate how their dream home turned into a place they barely recognize today. Even after the cleanup, officials will continue to monitor the area for signs of asbestos contamination, potentially prolonging the saga for this couple and others trapped in homes they cannot sell.
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