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EPA searches for more asbestos

The Environmental Protection Agency has collected close to 1,000 soil samples with three testing positive for asbestos but they say their research and testing is far from complete.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - It's a strange and even a scary sight to see in your neighborhood park - a man in a Hazmat suit.

Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency was back in the North Little Rock Dixie neighborhood testing for more asbestos in Conley Park before moving onto the neighboring properties. Men in Hazmat suits spent the morning playing on the playground just like children. It's called activity-based testing to see if any asbestos contaminated soil could have been disturbed during the years it was undetected in the soil.

"It's a method of trying to mimic what children would do in a park when they're playing a sport like baseball or when they're in the ground digging in the dirt," said EPA on-site coordinator Bill Rhotenberry.

Last month, the EPA found three asbestos contaminated areas in the city including one in Conley Park.

"My main concern out here are the kids," said Whitney Talbert. She's lived in Dixie her whole life. "Young children always come out here and play."

Although the park is now closed, it's only feet away from the bus stop where Talbert's children are dropped off after school.

"It could make us sick," she said.

Asbestos is only dangerous when airborne and so far all asbestos found in North Little Rock is at least six inches below the ground.

"They're below the surface of the ground so the wind really shouldn't make a whole lot of difference," said Rhotenberry.

No one knows exactly how the contaminated soil got in the park in the first place. Some argue it was dumped while others believe it blew over from an old plant on a windy day.

"We don't know if we have it in our lungs," said Talbert. "It's very scary."

But right now the EPA isn't looking into how it got there. They're just working on finding it and getting it out.

The EPA starts testing neighborhood yards this weekend. They're testing for asbestos on 20 properties in Dixie on the surface and up to two feet below.

The EPA says they will wait until all testing is done before determining a strategy to remove it. Rhotenberry says it all depends on how much contaminated soil needs to be removed.

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