Davidson Asbestos Site
Some call it the Linden Mill, others, the Metrolina Warehouse site. No matter what you call the old mill on Depot Street, the legacy of what was produced on the site for decades won’t go away anytime soon.
Carolina Asbestos Company operated at 301 Depot Street from the 1930s until the 1960s. The company produced floor tiles, roof shingles, and fabric. For years, even after the plant closed, piles of asbestos-containing scrap material remained at the site. Neighbors and longtime residents have said it was common practice for plant workers or neighbors to use the scrap material as fill for landscaping and yard projects.
It wasn’t until 1984 that the then-owner worked in coordination with the state to place an “engineered soil cap” over the exposed piles of contaminated waste. That’s the “hill” at the end of Depot Street that slopes toward Sloan Street. Most notably, neighbors reiterated that the plant site had been open – with public access to the pit/pile for decades.
In 2016 a developer brought forward a proposal for a mixed-use, multistory development on the site. Almost concurrently, whether it was a groundhog or flooding, the “engineered soil cap” was breeched and the EPA was called back to assess the situation.
Following inspections by the EPA, soil samples were taken between November 2016 and May 2017. Several dozen properties met federal site-specific criteria and tested above the EPA’s health-based exposure limit, the EPA remediated the asbestos-contaminated soil and installed clean fill and sod.
Asbestos is the name given to a naturally occurring group of minerals composed of tiny fibers that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they tend to stay because of their shape. Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and other lung diseases that may not appear until many years after exposure.
Following feedback at a community meeting in 2016 where residents expressed concern over the former asbestos mill and the likelihood of contaminants in the soil, NCDEQ and the EPA came to Davidson in 2017. They tested residential properties for asbestos and removed asbestos-containing material from some of those properties.
In response to new community concerns expressed in January of 2020, the testing area was expanded and EPA sought permission to access additional properties to conduct sampling. Various sampling events were conducted between May and December 2020. Removal and remediation is scheduled to take place in the coming months.
What appears to be clear is that long-term, on-going management of the asbestos contamination from the former Carolina Asbestos Company Davidson Plant will be needed. The Town and members of the community will have to remain engaged and continually monitor and mitigate the dangers posed by asbestos.