WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Asbestos has stopped construction of Progress Energy’s new Sutton Natural Gas Plant on Highway 421 near Wilmington. Crews are investigating to make sure all traces are removed.
About half a pound of the hazardous substance was found in what’s believed to be old buried construction dating back more than 50 years.
“It was a small amount of asbestos that was found, so we are fairly confident that we have already removed most of it and are in the process of removing the last bits of it,” plant spokesman Scott Sutton said. “We do not anticipate this to last on for much longer.”
Sutton said about a week and a half ago, crews excavating the construction site uncovered friable asbestos. That’s the hazardous kind that easily releases asbestos fibers.
Construction stopped briefly, and the crews reported the material and barricaded that area. Thursday, crews uncovered more old construction debris containing asbestos. That’s when construction stopped for good.
“Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that all employees are safe as they work around the construction site,” Sutton said. “So work on the new plant will resume once this legacy issue has been resolved.”
Sutton said he has not heard any complaints from workers, and air monitoring at the site shows there has not been any exposure. About 350 employees are currently working on this phase of the project.
Sutton said it’s too soon to tell if the contractor will simply absorb the removal costs or if the cost of the project for Progress Energy will change.
Construction of the new plant is in the early stages, so spokesman Sutton does not believe this is a huge setback. The natural gas plant is still scheduled to be up and running at the end of next year.