Asbestos concerns linger in NLR Dixie Neighborhood

Local News

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Asbestos concerns still linger in a North Little Rock neighborhood years after it was discovered. 

The EPA says asbestos was found in the Dixie Neighborhood back in 2011 from a vermiculite processing plant in operation from 1953 to 1989. 

The mineral was shipped in from a mine in Libby, Montana that was contaminated with asbestos. It’s estimated 400 people died in Libby because of it. 

It wasn’t until 2011 that the EPA found asbestos in a North Little Rock schoolyard, park and neighborhood. 

Some people who lived in the neighborhood are still concerned that what was cleaned up isn’t enough. 

The Dixie Neighborhood will always be home to Billy Burton. 

 “Raised on up through the muddy streets until they put pavement on the roads,” Burton said. 

Born in 1953, it was the same year a vermiculite processing plant was established beyond the trees in the NLR neighborhood. 

“As we [grew] up, there were a lot of deaths out in the neighborhood and we didn’t know what it was all about,” Burton said. 

It wasn’t until 2011 that the EPA found traces of the deadly mineral asbestos on a property in the Dixie Neighborhood, Conley Park and Redwood Elementary. 

Burton’s father died of cancer around that time, but he wasn’t told what kind. 

“I also feel like it contributed to a lot of people’s death in Dixie because we did not know,” Burton said. 

According to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, a three-phased approach to cleaning up the contaminated area was finished in Dec. 2016. The project was completed in Jan. 2017, according to the ADEQ. 

Soil and air samples were taken and excavation work was done to remove the asbestos, according to the report. 

“They came back with some soil, and put it in the park, they put some on the school playground,” Burton said remembering the crews coming through. 

But Burton fears it’s not enough since the building that housed the cancer-causing mineral is still standing. 

“The killer is still out there,” he said. 

While he’s moved away, he wants to be assured his family who still lives there is out of harms way. 

 “We need help. We need some closure on this.” 

The company who removed the asbestos was the one who originally owned the contaminated site both here and in Libby, Montana — W.R. Grace Company. 

There are no known plans to follow up and check for additional contamination. 
 

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