Owner: Asbestos exposure prevented tenants from collecting their belongings

Fire victims cannot collect belongings
Boarded up apartments.
Boarded up apartments.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Residents of Bridgeview Village Apartments who were displaced after a fire ripped through several units have not been able to return to collect their belongings due to an asbestos outbreak that was exposed after the fire, according to the property owner.

Five weeks have passed since flames tore through several units of the Bridgeview Village Apartments in downtown Charleston, leaving seven families without a home. The fire impacted eight units.

Michael Snowdon, Vice President of Highridge Costa Housing, LLC, says the fire exposed asbestos  in three apartments. State law requires the company to hire a contractor to perform testing on all eight units before residents can claim their belongings.

A spokesperson with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says foot traffic is discouraged during the testing process, as it could cause the asbestos particles to spread.

Some displaced residents say they are growing increasingly frustrated, because they were not originally told why they were  unable to collect their belongings left behind after the blaze at 103 Romney Street.

"You can see my shoes in that plastic container […] it's like my whole life right there…everything I own," said Rosalind Miller.

She may own these items, but Miller says the clean-up crew has been instructed by the apartment building's owner to hold onto them for liability reasons, because her apartment was contaminated by asbestos.

The company plans to giver her a check for $1,000 after her belongings were determined to be contaminated. They will be disposed of by a clean-up crew.

Miller, along with another displaced neighbor, Sherry Capers, say they originally tried to contact apartment management a number of times in person and via letter to see if they could claim their belongs, but each time there request was denied.

Capers said she felt invisible, "As far as the property manager is concerned, she is not willing to speak with us…the apartment staff would not speak with me either…I was referred to the complex owner but have yet to receive a response."

Snowdon says those who occupied units where the asbestos testing came back negative will be able to retrieve their items soon.

The cause of the Nov. 12 fire is still undetermined, according to the Charleston Fire Department.