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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

State settlement proposed for libby asbestos case

Libby, Montana - Only a few weeks after the federal government announced it may finally reach a settlement with W.R. Grace & Company, Montana state officials say they are also ready to sign an agreement with the company which may see more Libby asbestos claims settled. The Environmental Protection Agency announced in April that it had negotiated a $250 million settlement with W.R. Grace & Company. The money would be used to reimburse the agency’s Superfund and pay for the costs of cleaning up the contamination in Libby which was caused by the company’s mining operation in the town. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality today announced a proposed $5.1 million settlement, which will provide additional money to help fund future clean-up costs in Libby. The proposal will soon be open for public comment, and it must be approved by W.R. Grace’s bankruptcy judge. The funds allotted to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will be separate from the $250 million settlement, and will not come from that money. The DEQ says the $5.1 million will be used only after the EPA’s main clean up project has been finished, and that the money will be used for maintenance and other operations. DEQ Director Richard Opper said, “Since Grace is already paying $250 million for cleanup costs here, we were not going to get a lot of additional funding through the bankruptcy. We are pleased that we were able to get at least a significant sum to help ensure that there is adequate funding to do this cleanup right.” DEQ Remediation Division Administrator Sandi Olsen said, “The EPA settlement currently earmarks $11 million for operation and maintenance. This settlement increases that funding by over $5 million. Of course, operation and maintenance comes at that end of the process, so there should be a substantial amount of interest earnings to cover these costs as well.” The proposed DEQ settlement covers commercial and residential property in Libby and Troy, both of which are affected by the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine once operated by W.R. Grace & Company. The mine itself and the land around it will be addressed separately. The proposed agreement, including information about commenting on it, can be found on the Montana DEQ web site at www.deq.mt.gov. Comments must be received by July 7, 2008. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Asbestos contractors fined in new york and virginia

Two contractors have this week been fined as a result of improper handling of asbestos-containing materials. They are the Cinter Construction Company, Inc. of Williamsburg, VA and AAPEX Environmental Services Inc. of Liverpool, NY. Asbestos was a common component of construction materials up until the 1980s due to its high fire resistance and other desirable factors, but the demolition or renovation of older buildings means the asbestos they contain must be dealt with appropriately. Dumping of asbestos-containing waste in any location other than a licensed landfill is illegal due to the hazards associated with asbestos exposure. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lethal diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma due to the chronic inflammation that the fibers cause in the lungs. Due to the hazards of asbestos exposure, removal and disposal of the substance must be carried out in accordance with strict state and federal regulations. This means asbestos must be removed from buildings using specific safe methods, and must only be disposed of at landfill sites which are equipped and licensed to handle the substance. Failure to adhere to laws and regulations controlling asbestos handling can lead to hefty fines, as the two contractors discovered this week. The Williamsburg, Virginia incident concerns the Cinter Construction Company, Inc., which was found by the Department of Environmental Quality to have dumped asbestos-containing waste from a $14 million Navy housing construction site in downtown Newport News. The construction company had illegally dumped asbestos waste at a Suffolk landfill, mistakenly believing it was uncontaminated soil. However, when DEQ officials took samples of the twenty truckloads of waste dumped at the landfill, they found that asbestos was present. The second incident, in Liverpool, New York, occurred after a contractor admitted in federal court to illegally removing and disposing of asbestos-containing materials. The contractor admitted to having been handling asbestos illegally for more than ten years. AAPEX Environmental Services Inc. of Liverpool, NY also admitted to defrauding an insurance company. It had done so by failing to inform its insurer that it was carrying out activities in which asbestos handling was involved, in order to obtain lower insurance premiums. AAPEX Environmental Services Inc. has agreed to pay a fine of $166,700 as part of a plea deal. The deal also involves an agreement to permanently cease handling asbestos-related work. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oregon deq fines asbestos abatement company

Oregon â€" This week the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced it had issued eleven penalties, for a total of $73, 560, in the month of April. The largest penalty? A fine issued to an asbestos abatement company for improper and illegal asbestos removal. April’s largest penalty was issued to Performance Abatement Services, Inc., a DEQ-licensed asbestos abatement contractor. The penalty was issued in connection with a series of asbestos violations that occurred while the company was carrying out an abatement project in September 2007 at the Candalaria Mall in Salem. The Oregon DEQ first became aware of the asbestos violations when agency representatives carried out a compliance inspection on September 12, 2007. The inspector noticed that ceiling tiles containing asbestos had been removed and packaged for disposal by the abatement company, but had not been properly wetted down as Oregon law requires. In addition, the DEQ representative noticed that asbestos sheet vinyl flooring, which was contained in waste bags on the site, had also not been wetted down properly. As well as these problems, the DEQ also noticed that other materials that were potentially contaminated with asbestos, including carpet, wood, metal, and fiberglass insulation, that should have been considered asbestos-containing materials, had not been properly packaged in leak-proof containers. The contaminated waste was being hauled off the site and treated as normal uncontaminated demolition debris. The DEQ says that around 12,000 square feet of asbestos-containing materials were removed from the project site. According to the DEQ, “Because asbestos-containing waste material was allowed to accumulate at the mall site after the abatement and then hauled off site as demolition debris, workers and the public were potentially exposed to asbestos fibers released into the air.” Wetting down asbestos-containing materials is an important part of abatement work because it reduces the possibility of asbestos fibers being released into the air (where they can be inhaled). Materials that were removed from the site contained between 2% and 20% Chrysotile asbestos. According to the DEQ report, “Asbestos fibers are a respiratory hazard proven to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, and asbestos is a danger to public health and a hazardous air contaminant for which there is no known safe level of exposure.” The fine issued to Performance Abatement Services, Inc. totals $24,900. The asbestos contractor appealed the penalty but a hearing has not yet been scheduled. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Asbestos drives up costs of school demolition

Whitman, Massachusetts - Asbestos that was discovered during the demolition of a school has driven up the demolition costs by almost six times. Demolition of the Holt School in Whitman, Massachusetts was to have cost around $300,000. However, after asbestos was discovered, the cost has gone up to more than $1.6 million. Town Administrator Frank Lynam said asbestos was found in tiles, floor lining beneath the tiles, and in exterior bricks used in construction of the original school buildings. Lynam also said that the pre-demolition asbestos survey which had been carried out was inadequate, as it had failed to find any of the asbestos that was discovered during the demolition. The discovery of asbestos drives the cost of demolition up considerably for several reasons. First is the fact that the asbestos must be removed before the school buildings can be demolished. Leaving the asbestos intact during demolition could potentially spread large clouds of asbestos dust into the environment, creating an environmental and health hazard. Second, the asbestos removal must be carried out by professional contractors who are licensed to handle asbestos. In addition, special procedures must be used in removing the asbestos, to prevent the dispersion of asbestos dust. These procedures include a process called wet removal, in which asbestos-containing materials are wetted down before they are removed, to prevent the release of dust and airborne fibers. Finally, the cost of disposing of asbestos waste is significantly higher than disposing of non-hazardous material. Asbestos disposal is generally around three times more expensive than disposal of non-hazardous waste. All of these are particularly important considerations that are necessary to prevent asbestos exposure to anyone involved in handling the substance. Even a small amount of exposure can cause a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. The health hazards of asbestos exposure have prompted most states to have strict regulations about handling the substance, as well as regulations governing demolition of buildings that contain it. However, the very high cost of this abatement could have been at least partially avoided. Had the town known of the asbestos earlier, Lynam said, the cost for asbestos abatement would be lower, as the town would have been able to put the work out for contractor bids. Instead, the town has had to pay a higher cost to get the work done with minimum delay. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Four new asbestos lawsuits filed in west virginia

Charleston, West Virginia - Four families have filed asbestos-related lawsuits, claiming that a family member has suffered from an asbestos-related disease as a result of working with or around asbestos-containing products. In total, the four lawsuits name 124 different defendants. The lawsuits were filed in Kanawha Circuit Court in West Virginia by the attorneys of the plaintiffs. Each of the four suits involves a man who has developed an asbestos-related disease as a result of past exposure to asbestos, and in two of the cases the men who developed the diseases have already died. Asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer continue to increase in incidence as people who were exposed to asbestos decades ago begin to realize the devastating legacy of the substance. In most cases of asbestos exposure which occurred last century, those exposed had no idea they were putting themselves at risk of developing chronic lung diseases or deadly asbestos cancers. The first suit was filed by Doris Bowen of Barboursville, on behalf of the estate of Lemuel Bowen. Lemuel Brown developed asbestosis and lung cancer, and worked in Huntington as a welder at the American Car Foundry. Also of Barboursville is Virginia Harris, who filed on behalf of the estate of Jack Harris. Harris has developed asbestosis and lung cancer, and worked for several years for IBEW Local 317 as an electrician. The third suit was filed by Walter Socha, of Martins Ferry, Ohio. Socha worked at Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel as a laborer and pipefitter, and has developed asbestosis and lung cancer. The fourth suit was filed by John F. Stoll and Betty J. Stoll, who currently reside in Wintersville, Ohio. John Stoll worked Weirton Steel in Weirton, West Virginia as a crane operator, electrician, and laborer. He has developed asbestosis and mesothelioma. The lawsuits state that each of the plaintiffs was exposed to asbestos in products which were manufactured, supplied, or sold by one or more of the various named defendants. The suits also allege that the defendants failed to provide warnings about the dangers of asbestos and of their asbestos-containing products, and failed to provide information about safety procedures to reduce or prevent exposure to asbestos. Each of the plaintiffs is seeking punitive as well as compensatory damages. Virginia Harris and Doris Bowen have filed wrongful death suits. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Fire clean-up continues in corinth, ny

Corinth, New York - Clean up of asbestos-laden fire debris has been a week-long job in the village of Corinth, New York, where fire destroyed three businesses on the town’s main street in February. Clean up of the burned-out building sites began on Thursday and could be finished as early as Monday, says site supervisor for Rensselaer-based BCL Services Inc, Brian Hladik. The presence of asbestos in the burned buildings has increased the cost of the clean up somewhat. Asbestos was a common addition to many different types of construction materials up until the 1980s. Cheap, light, durable and highly fire resistant, asbestos was typically considered something of a “wonder mineral” and was used in appliances, fire-resistant protective fabric, and many other items in addition to construction materials. However, many businesses and home-owners and workers are now paying the price, due not only to the high cost of asbestos abatement and removal, but also to the personal costs of asbestos exposure, in the form of chronic lung diseases and asbestos cancer. Cleaning up a burned out building which contains asbestos construction materials is a difficult and time-consuming-not to mention expensive-process due to the precautions which must be taken to protect workers and the public from asbestos exposure, and to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the environment. Asbestos fibers are considered safe as long as they are trapped within the matrix of construction materials such as cement products and plasters. However, damage such as remodeling, demolition, and fire damage breaks up construction materials and can potentially release large amounts of inhalable asbestos fibers into the air. For workers involved in cleaning up the three Main Street businesses in Corinth, that means extra precautions taken to prevent asbestos exposure and release of asbestos fibers. For the business owners, that means extra expenses incurred in clean up, due not only to the measures that must be taken on site, but also because disposal of asbestos containing waste is around three times more expensive than disposal of non-hazardous waste. Luckily for these business owners, the clean up has been partly funded by a “small cities” grant which was given to the village. In mid-May, members of the Village Board voted to help the owners of the businesses clean up the sites by providing a subsidy of $74,000. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Asbestos concerns for business owners at colorado mall

Craig, Colorado â€" Owners of businesses located near the Country Mall in Craig, Colorado, are concerned that the presence of asbestos in the mall may have a negative effect on their customer base. However, the possibility of exposure to asbestos isn’t the only thing concerning local business owner Steve Bell, who runs the Furniture Gallery of Craig. When officials posted signed warning of the asbestos contained within the building, Steve Bell began to worry that customers might stay away: “I wonder if people look at that [sign] and worry if it’s dangerous to come around here. There’s a lot of comments from people coming into the store, asking when that eyesore is going to go away.” The Country Mall is located in a burned-out building that has been in disrepair since it burned down in November 2007. The building is now known to contain asbestos but there are no definite plans to begin a clean-up. One reason for this is that the asbestos has to be cleaned up before any renovation or demolition work can take place. However, the owners of the building, Veldon Behrman and Marvin Cortner, say they are waiting to hear from the building’s insurers before hiring contractors to clean up the building. State law requires that the Country Mall site be cleaned up before any further developmentâ€"whether it be renovation or demolitionâ€"can take place. Some areas of flooring contain up to 25% asbestos, and several other locations in the building are contaminated with the hazardous mineral. Roy White, regional manager of King¬ston Environmental Services, a company that carries out clean-up of hazardous material, said that it was possible that wind might blow asbestos to other areas. White added that it would be unlikely to occur in the case of the Country Mall due to recent wet weather that would greatly reduce the likelihood of asbestos becoming airborne. White does say, however, that the insurance company has perhaps taken an unnecessary amount of time to pay the claim on the Country Mall, saying that the owners of the building “need to get it cleaned up and cleaned up quick.” The owners of the building say they would like to begin cleaning the building as soon as possible, but their hands are tied until the insurance claim is settled. (Source: Asbestos and Mesothelioma News)