Myself, I do not think the group of guys were on a anti-coal agenda trip.
I think there is some negative-coal-stereotyping going on, but only because they are young and misinformed. They are not unlike the millions of other young yuppies that look at old machinery, black soil and old buildings and think of mother nature being pummeled, and then merrily going about their lives, thinking nothing of shutting off the computers they rely so deeply upon, never realizing coal powers it all!
I think if they had truly intended to be anti-coal, they would have immediately made the link from mercury to the coal, and not dumbly assume it came from old light bulbs. Anyone that has ever worn a blue collar knows that mercury was used heavily with steel, and any maintenance shop, machine shop or fabrication shop of any appreciable vintage, had mercury on its premisses. From the pictures you can see they found the mercury in the maintenance part of the shop...it is no surprise to me.
These guys do not make me laugh as much as this guy and his trip to the old St. Nicholas Coal Breaker...http://urbansetting.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/mission-9-st-nicholas-coal-breaker/
, about 1/3 of the way down the website you will see him in a mask, at which he says, "St Nicholas Breaker was immense…..the sight sent chills down my spine. I hurt my neck looking towards the sky to view the entire building. The colors of rust and broken windows excited me….the smell of old made me curious, it also said I should dawn my mask. I reached into my backpack and pulled out my oxygen mask. It was fairly new so I snapped a photo to see how I looked."
First of all, that is not an oxygen mask, it is a dust particle mask and is not really going to protect you from much. As such there is nothing in that coal breaker that would harm your lungs. Assuming there is even asbestos in there, it would only affect you if you disturbed it, or miraculously the asbestos pipe insulation fell off a pipe as you walked by in huge amounts, and you breathed it in. With that many windows missing, and the place open and airy, it is going to be so well ventilated that your little footsteps are not going to kick up much of anything harmful.
But I agree with you, it is the misinformed who enter a place for the thrill of it, and then do stupid things that ruin it for everyone.
I know there is a Preservation Society for the Huber Coal Breaker, and while I applaud those efforts, it seems as if that coal breaker is in far worse shape then the St Nicholas Coal Breaker just by gauging by the photos online.