Concerned North St. Louis city residents await EPA results for potential asbestos

ST. LOUIS, MO. - FOX 2 was back in the Carr Square neighborhood Monday for a follow up to some angry residents who said that they're breathing potentially deadly air after a four-alarm fire last week at the Clemens Mansion spread debris all around the area.

"The city health department ought to be handing us respirators for one thing," Terry Chapman was heard saying as representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with city health officials were surveying and collecting samples.

"There's asbestos that has been strewn all over our neighborhood," Champlain said, "and we don't know what the air quality is like where we are standing and now breathing."

Sheila Rendon who has lived in the neighborhood for four years said that she's thinking about buying face masks, knowing that potentially toxic air could make her sick.

"People have died from mesothelioma," Rendon said, "and this asbestos is a cancer-causing agent, so do we just live our lives and pretend we don't see the soot and ash all over the place?"

But the EPA and city health officials said that they are listening to resident concerns.

"Anytime you have a fire you have to breathe what comes out of that fire and it flows with the air," said Todd Waelterman, Director of Operations.

"And that's what they (residents) say and they have concerns about the makeup of it and how it can impact their lives."

The city said that because the mansion is privately owned, EPA agents cannot collect samples from that property without the owner, Paul Mckee's permission.

That's why with ziplock bags in hand, site coordinators walked to areas with sidewalks, various streets and into other parts of the neighborhood picking up debris to be tested.

"The testing is where they will look under a microscope and a professional will look at it and tell you whether it's asbestos or not," said site-coordinator, John Frey.

Jim Gradl, a spokesman for Paul McKee said in a statement:

"We also understand that there is great interest in inspecting the home and the damage to help determine the root cause and impact of the fire. However, in its current state the house is not stable, is unsafe and our insurance company has advised us not to let anyone enter the home until it is deemed safe for entry. Once we receive assurance that the Clemens house is deemed structurally safe it will be available for entry and inspection and any necessary testing. We look forward to working with the authorities to solve this apparent crime."

Frey said that results from the samples collected Monday could be in as early as Tuesday.