BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It seems that work may soon start again on pulling down the remainder of the former Iowan Motor Lodge in Fort Madison.
Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources were on the property again last week and said they spoke with city officials and owner Glen Meller said he had indicated he wanted to get back on the property and start cleaning it up.
Nathan Steuve, with the DNR’s Environmental Division overseeing asbestos abatement, said there are still levels of asbestos on the west surface of the building that are just outside accepted levels, but said Meller said he was going to clean it up.
“We talked with city officials a week or two ago. We came up with a plan and Mr. Meller is going to start clean up on the piles and start demolition of the hotel,” Steuve said.
Steuve said he’s been down to the Iowan site on several occasions since the summer, when Meller said he would have to wait until the fall or winter to finish cleanup because of the workload he had with his excavation company. The discovery of asbestos came from ceiling tiles on the west side of the building that showed a 1.5% factor which was rounded up to 2%, which exceeds acceptable limits.
Steuve said Meller had been doing everything correctly in the demolition and had asbestos contractors on site. He said the DNR will show up at demolitions and review documents and possibly take samples, which they did, and found the asbestos, which in turn slowed the demolition down. He said Meller can do what’s called an “ordered” or “wet’ demolition where demolition crews would water down the area of the building and then haul the materials to the landfill in a lined container.
Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren said DNR officials did come to City Hall about three weeks ago to talk about the progress at the Iowan.
“Right after that Mr. Meller came in for a demolition permit on another piece of property. He said they would be starting the process and start working on tearing it down. I was just out there today and he’s moved some equipment back on the property.”
Herren said Meller does have his own water truck and can handle a wet demolition.
“When the hotel on 6th Street burned down, he handled that demolition and that’s what he did there, so he knows how to get that done,” Herren said.
Kurt Levetsow, a senior environmental specialist with the DNR. said there are no specific federal or state laws that would require Meller to take the building down. He said the DNR gets involved with the asbestos monitoring and dumping. He said the DNR did monitor some dumping, but said Meller’s crews were dumping properly in a development area with concrete, brick, and stone which is legal according to Iowa code.
“Once the asbestos is disturbed, that’s when it activates us,” Stueve said. “So, technically, if he let it sit there, it’s on his timeline, it’s his ownership. But It was my understanding, and he indicated to me, that he would back working on this site again soon.”
A phone call to Meller went unreturned on Thursday afternoon.