I Do Asbestos Abatement
Words & Photos / Clayton Linden
Basically, we travel to towns and villages all over the state of Alaska to remove asbestos, building materials, and other hazardous items such as lead, mercury, gasoline in confined spaces, and the like. But we mainly focus on asbestos because there’s still quite a bit of it left up here. Asbestos containing materials were outlawed for use in building back in 1979, but sometimes regulations have a way of not reaching the Last Frontier as quickly as one would think. So, lucky me, there’s still a lot to remove.
My crew focuses on government buildings, schools, hospitals, and military bases. They pay better due to the Davis-Bacon Act, which regulates the pay of construction workers on government property. In just one year of working as an asbestos abater, I have been to Kodiak, Emmonak, Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Metlakatla, Ketchikan, and Sitka. And that doesn't even compare to some of my coworkers who have been to hundreds of rural villages throughout the state that most other Alaskans haven't even heard of. I bet a lot of people don't know that Alaska has a full-fledged Native Reservation, complete with a casino and everything. Just slots and bingo, but a casino nonetheless.
Most of my joy comes from all the traveling I get to do for this job, being able to see so much more of the state that I was born and raised in. Well, actually, I’m lying. The most joy I get is when I see that paycheck.
I’ve had many jobs before I started working with asbestos. From college student to car salesman, landscaper to working at a Laundromat, snowboard filmer to bartender. Hell, I even managed a small restaurant at one point. But none of those compare to what it’s like being an asbestos abater. It was a difficult transition, from bartending in Portland at a club with 300 plus people a night, surrounded by beautiful women, gangsters, hipsters, and hippies, to working in remote villages on a five man crew, sharing hotel rooms with smelly abaters. I used to wake up whenever I liked, head in to work around 9 pm and get off at 4 or 5 am; a night full of music and laughs, with whiskey and cocaine sprinkled on top. Now, I wake up at 5 am. I’m at the truck by 6:40, work starts at 7 and we get off usually around 6 pm. There is a distinct lack of women, whiskey and all the other stuff. It might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not, it’s amazing how quickly you can change your life and get used to anything. I still have my fun, but it’s quite a bit healthier and a hell of a lot less habitual.