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Former Ketchikan hospital faces demolition

Posted: November 29, 2012 - 1:00am

KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan’s former hospital could tumble down sometime in January. City officials hope it falls as the result of work by a demolition crew, not a collapse.

The Ketchikan City Council two weeks ago awarded a $685,300 demolition contract to BAM, LLC, to tear down the building. The Ketchikan Daily News reports workers will take a weeklong course on asbestos disposal before starting the job.

“My guess is it will be about the middle of January before we get in the building and start tearing it down,” said BAM spokesman Mark Johnson.

The four-story downtown building, converted into the Bawden Street Apartments, was declared a public emergency last year. City officials noticed it was changing shape.

“Sagging in the roof, deflection in the walls,” said Public Works Director Clif Allen on Wednesday. Walls have bulged out as much as 18 inches, he said.

The asbestos containment class ends for his crew ends Jan. 11.

Asbestos is fire-resistant and the material was formerly used in building construction. Loose fibers can cause health problems including mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer. Asbestos in buildings as old as the former hospital often is found in settled dust, Johnson said.

The building’s deteriorating condition and the imminent danger of collapse makes it too dangerous to enter and remove the asbestos, Johnson said. The company instead will treat the entire structure as if it is contaminated.

The company will use fire hoses to keep the building wet and dust inert. Johnson said. Ketchikan’s traditional rainy January weather may help, he said.

After soaking the wood-frame structure, workers plan to collapse the center first. That should pull the outer walls inward to prevent them from falling into adjacent properties, Johnson said.

He estimated the company will need 10 to 14 days to complete demolition and two more weeks to haul material to a landfill.

Rubble will be enveloped in plastic sheeting to keep asbestos from escaping.

“There’ll be a considerable amount of trucking up to the dump,” Johnson said. “It’s not very heavy material, it’s just bulky.”

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