Cleanup work on the Oroville Dam spillway continues, but now there is some added caution being taken by workers after asbestos was discovered at the site.
The Butte County Air Quality Management District discovered what they say is naturally occurring asbestos during preliminary sediment testing last week.
The district's Bob Mclaughlin says, "So far the only positive hits were in the rock formation underneath the spillway." He claims that there is no safe exposure level to asbestos but at this point there is no significant health risk to the public because the Department of water resources has implemented the appropriate dust control measures.
When it comes to that dust control, California Department of Water Resources representative Lauren Bisnett says they include "wetting of soil with water trucks, using wet drilling methods to minimize dust, using rumble strips on roads to reduce dust collection and heavy equipment." They will also increase air sampling, according to Bisnett.
DWR notes that asbestos is only harmful if it gets into the air, and McLaughlin says it is fortunate that there have been damp conditions this winter that have helped reduce asbestos-laced dust in the air, but as we head into the summer the dust control will be crucial.
Although the minerals were only found in isolated pockets, testing will continue, and for the time being, officials will respond as if the entire site is covered with asbestos.
Live streaming video from Oroville Dam is available below.