After 24 Years, Program Employing Inmates for Asbestos Removal Comes to an End

By Rick Kornak, http://www.mesothelioma.com

Washington state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) has put an end to a 23-year-old program that employed inmates for asbestos abatement projects.

Although the DOC has claimed the matters are unrelated, the program’s termination comes not long after a recent investigation by the Department of Labor and Industries, which found that seven crew workers at the Washington Corrections Center for Women may have inhaled asbestos-containing dust in June, 2013. The work involved two nine-hour shifts of removing contaminated floor tiles.

“They were allowing the workers to be exposed to asbestos,” said Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industries. Although the amount of exposure is unclear, Fischer pointed out that any inhalation of asbestos fibers can be detrimental to one’s health. “There’s no minimum safe amount of exposure,” she said. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of respiratory health problems, including fatal afflictions, such as mesothelioma.

The DOC was originally fined $141,000 for the violations, but this amount was halved when the agency agreed to do additional training and purchase more equipment. The inmates were trained and certified for asbestos removal, but the investigation done by the Department of Labor and Industries led to the discovery that proper procedures were not being followed at all times. The contaminated material was not always wet down, as it should be, and masks, gloves, and other protective equipment was worn inconsistently. Read More

How slime mold can design transportation networks and maybe even transform computing

By Biz Carson, http://gigaom.com

slime-mold-board-1

The yellow blobs of slime mold normally grow in dark forests, not on computer chips or on gelatinous squares shaped like the United States. But through his research, University of the West of England professor Andrew Adamatzky has shown that the mold can, and should, be grown elsewhere because of its potential in computing.

Physarum polycephalum is a brainless mold that’s sole purpose is to build transportation networks for the nutrients that sustain it. As it expands in search of food, it sends out slimy tubes that continue to branch out until it finds a food source, at which point it forms a blob around the nutrients. Its slime tubes then continue to grow and split until the mold forms a network of tubes to transport the food throughout itself.

The key to Physarum polycephalum’s computing power, however, is its ability to form the most efficient and optimal network.

Because it’s a self-repairing, living creature, it can also model emergency situations. So if a road was cut off due to flooding or an accident, the mold could also be suddenly cut off at that point and its resources redirected in another optimal way.

“By understanding how living creatures build transport networks, an urban planner would probably modify their approaches towards urban development and road planning,” Adamatzky said.

And while we may not see a petri dish of slime mold on an urban planner’s desk anytime soon, there are more practical applications of the mold when it comes to computing. Adamatzky wrote a book in 2010 where he defined the concept of Physarum machines: programmable, amorphous, living computing devices. Because the mold is sensitive to light and certain chemicals, the mold can be programmed to travel certain ways while still finding the optimal network. Read More

TEM Time

I know a lot of you will be doing Clearance Testing on asbestos abatement projects in the coming month, so here is a quick summary chart for your reference. As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to give us a call. 800-822-1650

 

TEMCheatSheet

Hunting Point renters demand answers to asbestos contamination at their buildings

By Patricia Sullivan, http://www.washingtonpost.com

Residents of one of Alexandria’s largest affordable apartment complexes grilled federal regulators, local authorities and their landlord Saturday over the discovery of asbestos during renovations of their homes, angrily asking why it took three months for officials to halt the work.

Owners of the 530-unit Hunting Point on the Potomac, formerly Hunting Towers, received a rare stop-work order from the Environmental Protection Agency last week after inspectors discovered asbestos in the floors, doors and windows. The agency also found that workers were not taking legally required precautions.

During four visits to the 63-year-old complex since the beginning of the year, EPA officials found crumbling asbestos in apartments, halls and trash areas where windows and floor tiles are being replaced. No notice of the danger was posted, the EPA said, and workers did not seal the area to protect residents. No certified supervisor was on the job, nor were workers certified in the task of removing hazardous materials. The EPA has ordered testing for airborne asbestos fibers.

The stop-work order is an unusual action by the EPA; only five a year are typically issued, and they rarely involve occupied apartment buildings, an EPA spokeswoman said. Read More

Blood lead screenings offered near Exide plant

Posted by KABC-TV/DT, http://abclocal.go.com

Exide plantFree blood lead screenings are available for people who live, work or attend school near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

Los Angeles County health officials made the screenings available Monday after excessive levels of lead were detected in recent emissions from the battery recycling plant. Elevated levels of lead were found in the yards of 39 homes around the plant.

“There are many sources of lead in our daily environment,” Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding said. “However, it is clear that Exide Technologies has emitted unacceptably high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities for years.”

Exide recycles batteries and has been under close scrutiny by state and local regulators over the past year.

Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles have voiced concerns about their safety numerous times.

This is the latest in a string of problems surrounding the plant. In January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, saying the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic. Read More

Monks’ Secret: Asbestos Lurking Beneath Byzantine Wall Paintings

By Joseph Castro, http://www.livescience.com

monk asbestos

Hundreds of years before asbestos became ubiquitous in the construction industry, Byzantine monks used the fibrous material in plaster coatings underlying their wall paintings during the late 1100s, new research shows.

Asbestos is a type of natural, rock-forming mineral known for its ability to separate into long, flexible fibers. It has long been thought that asbestos fibers, which are corrosion- and combustion-resistant, were first integrated into such things as plaster, finish coatings and floors after the Industrial Revolution.

But while investigating the 12th-century paintings in the Byzantine monastery Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Cyprus, UCLA researchers discovered the magnesium silicate mineral, chrysotile (white asbestos), in the finish coating of the plaster underneath a portion of a wall painting. The chrysotile provided a smooth layer with a mirrorlike surface for the painting.

“[The monks] probably wanted to give more shine and different properties to this layer,” said UCLA archaeological scientist Ioanna Kakoulli, lead author of the new study, published online last month in the Journal of Archaeological Science. “It definitely wasn’t a casual decision — they must have understood the properties of the material.” Read More

EPA Begins Effort to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Lead Paint in New Haven

By David Deegan, http://www.epa.gov

In an effort to improve compliance with laws that protect children from lead paint poisoning, EPA is sending letters to approximately 200 home renovation and painting contractors, property management companies and landlords in and around New Haven, Conn. announcing a compliance assistance and enforcement initiative. The EPA letter outlines steps EPA is taking to increase compliance on the part of these entities with the federal lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

EPA’s RRP Rule, which became effective in April 2010, is designed to prevent children’s exposure to lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards resulting from renovation, repair and repainting projects in residences, schools and other buildings where children are likely to be.

This Rule requires individual renovators and firms performing renovations to be trained and certified so that they follow lead safe work practices during renovations of pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities in order to protect children from lead poisoning.

The letter EPA is sending to New Haven-area contractors, landlords and property management companies invites these entities to an information session at the New Haven Health Department office, 54 Meadow Street, New Haven, on April 16, 2014 from 3 to 6 pm where EPA will provide an overview of the RRP Rule requirements, and introduce an expedited settlement offer for one violation of the RRP Rule. The letter also notifies the contractors that EPA will be inspecting a number of them in June 2014.

During April and May, EPA will offer compliance assistance on the RRP Rule to companies and the public in the New Haven area. In June, EPA lead inspectors will inspect numerous renovation, painting and property management companies in the New Haven area regarding their compliance with the RRP Rule. The inspections may be followed up with enforcement. Read More

Meningitis outbreak in Los Angeles, three dead so far

By JC Sevcik, http://www.upi.com

MeningitisThree have died due to meningitis in Los Angeles, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Thursday.

The department announced their have been eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the county so far this year, the L.A. Times reports.

Invasive meningococcal disease causes meningitis, an inflammation of the the meninges, the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be spread through exposure to sneezing and coughing and contact with saliva and mucous. Kissing, sharing beverages or cigarettes, and living in group settings can transmit the bacteria responsible for infection.

Symptoms usually onset within five days of exposure to the bacteria, and may include a high fever, stiff neck, aches, and an aversion to bright lights.

Read More

Snow mold popping up on lawns

It’s that time of year when things start to sprout up and grow.

But you might find an unwanted visitor on your lawn this spring: snow mold.

The fungus gets its name because it thrives underneath snow cover. So all the snow we got this past winter means the mold is popping up on more lawns than in past years.

The temperature underneath all that snow sits right around 30 degrees, the perfect conditions for which mold to grow, said Nate Devisser of Weed Man Lawn Care.

“Those are conditions that are prime for the fungus to grow in lawns: prolonged period of snow cover,” Devisser said.

The good news is, it’s not hurting your grass. Only in rare causes would the mold cause permanent damage.

It just looks bad.

“It looks like dead grass,” Devisser explained. “A lot of homeowners might panic and say, ‘Oh my goodness, my lawn died over the winter!’”

But there’s a simple fix to get rid of it: just rake it up.

“You just want to fluff it up,” he said.

But even though snow mold doesn’t hurt your lawn or plants, you’ll still want to take care of it as soon as possible in case someone in your family’s allergic to mold.

It can cause some serious symptoms, said Dr. Christina Barnes, an allergist with the South Bend Clinic.

“Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, sometimes stuffiness, drainage,” Barnes listed. “And if they have asthma, it can trigger asthma as well.”

Educational program executives sentenced for exposing high school students to asbestos

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, http://legalnewsline.com

Two former executives from a now-defunct nonprofit organization were sentenced to prison on Monday for exposing as many as 80 Merced County high school students to asbestos in an attempt to cut corners in asbestos removal.

Patrick Bowman and Rudy Buendia III pleaded no contest to federal charges of violating federal asbestos laws in May.

Bowman, who was also a teacher with the Valley Community School in Los Banos, Calif., served as Firm Build’s board president and coordinator of the Workplace Learning Academy, and Buendia was the nonprofit’s construction project site supervisor.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the Eastern District of California sentenced Bowman to 27 months and Buendia to 24 months in federal prison.

Joseph Cuellar, Firm Build’s former administrative manager, was also charged but filed a motion to withdraw his no contest plea, which was later denied. As a result, O’Neill gave Cuellar’s counsel until May 15 to file additional motions before moving forward with sentencing.

Firm Build had a contract with the Merced County Office of Education to provide job training and work experience programs to local “at-risk” high school students from the Workplace Learning Academy. The program was intended to teach trade skills to students as young as 14 years old.

The students would work for part of the school day and receive school credit for their work. Some were paid minimum wage for the work they performed, Bowman’s plea agreement states.

Instead, the trio knowingly used to students to remove asbestos during a demolition and renovation project at Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center, located at 2245 Jetstream Drive in Atwater, from September 2005 to March 2006.

The “defendants falsely represented that Firm Build, Inc. intended to perform a renovation construction project … with no disturbance or removal of any asbestos containing materials, including flooring, insulation and piping, when, in truth and fact, defendants knew that the renovation and construction project would involve the removal of asbestos containing materials,” the indictment states.

During the construction work, students and employees removed and abated between 700 and 1,000 linear feet of asbestos-containing pipe insulation.

The students were required to remove asbestos-containing materials without first learning proper removal methods and were not provided appropriate respiratory protection.

Job Coach Joe Gudino testified that they would cut through the insulation and pipes and let them drop to the ground, creating dust. He added that the insulation was “crumbly.”

Students also cut out the insulation, dragged it to dumpsters and removed the remaining dust with dustpans. They also occasionally used sledgehammers to remove pipe insulation and then used their hands or shovels to dispose of the material in dumpsters.

Job Coach Angelo Gonzalez testified that employees and students put the asbestos-containing insulation in garbage bags and wheelbarrows and disposed of it in dumpsters, which were picked up by the Central Valley Disposal to take to regular landfills.

According to court records, the men knew the building had asbestos in it when they negotiated the lease. Read More

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