Kentucky environmental officials inspected possible asbestos contamination on a nearly 90-acre site off Squires Road in Lexington Thursday, one day after being unable to enter the property, state officials confirmed.
Susan Lancho, a spokeswoman for Kentucky American Water, said Kentucky Cabinet for Energy and Environmental Protection officials were on the site Thursday, after a miscommunication the day before left them standing at a locked gate.
"Once we learned through yesterday’s phone call of the cabinet wanting to visit the property, we contacted various folks (including the new property owners) to coordinate," Lancho said.
John Mura, a spokesman for the cabinet, said officials collected samples and were having them tested.
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Kentucky American Water is the former owner of the property. Ball Homes plans to build more than 420 homes and hundreds of apartments and townhouses on the property.
Water company officials have said the asbestos is from older water pipes that were stored on the property, bordered on three sides by a reservoir. Those older pipes pose no threat unless they are moved, officials have said.
Ball Homes has said they plan to hire environmental consultants to remove the asbestos pipes prior to development.
The cabinet's Superfund Program has sent Kentucky American Water a letter inquiring about media reports about possible contamination of the site. Lancho said Thursday they had not received the letter.
The Herald-Leader reported last month that the Fayette County School board had backed out of a deal to buy 20 acres of the property after receiving a report from an environmental firm that showed areas of possible asbestos contamination.
The school board had planned to build a middle school on the site, but declined after determining that remediation of the site could cost more than $1 million. Ball Homes, which had previously received a zone change to build homes, apartments and townhouses on the surrounding property, filed an application with city planners earlier this month to put up to 77 homes on the 20 acres the school system had planned to buy.
A hearing on whether Ball Homes can build on the 20 acres is set for June 28. To proceed, the Urban County Planning Commission must agree to lift a zoning restriction that limited the number of housing units on the 90 acres to 450. If that restriction is lifted, Ball Homes plans to put 238 apartments, 31 townhouses and 240 lots for single-family homes in the development.
Mura said the cabinet wanted to see more documentation and to inspect the site to determine if there has been an environmental release. If the pipes have been disturbed or moved, that might be considered a release, he said.
"If it's still inert and contained in the pipes, that's not a release," Mura said.
Neighbors of the proposed Peninsula development have previously said they are upset that more has not been done to address the asbestos on the site and said they want more assurances that removal of the asbestos will be monitored.