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Residents living near Fort Lauderdale airport concerned about asbestos

Pile of asbestos worries residents already upset about noise, construction

DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Residents fed up with noise and construction at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said they're now concerned about their health.

"It's right on our door step," Romano Guttadauro told Local 10 News. "This is unacceptable."

No matter how much he hoses down his children's toys, Guttadauro said, his backyard is quickly covered again in dust from the piles of debris at the county airport construction staging area next door.

"We put up with the expansion. They built the runway. Did they really need to do this here?" he said.

But it's what could be in the dust that really has residents of the Melaleuca Gardens neighborhood concerned -- asbestos.

The warning signs and red tape showed up around several piles on the property about 10 days ago. Workers demolishing Terminal 4 found old floor tiles dating back to the 1940s. Tests show they contain asbestos, a cancer-causing toxin banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. Airport officials said they put up the signs and red tape as soon as they became aware.

"There's lots of activity around here, but this is an isolated case -- a small amount compared to the big project that we're working on, and it's being dealt with properly," Broward County Aviation Department spokesman Greg Meyer said.

Meyer said experts told him the asbestos isn't airborne, but workers wearing protective masks are wetting down the piles as a precaution. Monday crews began hauling the toxic material offsite.

Dania Beach city officials aren't so sure they're safe.

"It's not supposed to be airborne, but it's airborne if they're grinding," Mayor Marco Salvino Sr. said. "Maybe somebody took a wrong pile and put it in the grinder. Who knows? We don't know that. They don't know that."

Residents said the new south runway has already affected their quality of life and worry this new phase of construction is now putting their lives at risk.

"It's the icing on the cake," Guttadauro said. "It really is."

The Florida Department of Health said it is aware of the situation and is working to ensure that the material is disposed of properly. Airport officials said they are monitoring the air quality to make sure residents aren't at risk.

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