By JALIN P. CUNNINGHAM, Harvard Crimson
Asbestos found in Harvard building materials recently forced at least one undergraduate to temporarily relocate out of his room in Winthrop House, although administrators say current levels of the fibrous material pose no health problems to students.
Last semester, after arriving back to his dorm, Winthrop resident Matthew W.G. Walker ’16 said he noticed a chunk of plaster had fallen from the ceiling into his closet, scattering dust over his clothes. The next day, Winthrop House staff and facility workers tested the plaster and found levels of asbestos in the material, according to Walker.
Winthrop House Masters Stephanie Robinson and Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. wrote in a statement that standards of construction for older buildings are to blame for the presence of asbestos, which was frequently used for fireproofing and insulation throughout the twentieth century.
“Asbestos has been found in rooms at Winthrop House, either during repair work or during episodes where something breaks and materials behind the wall are exposed,” they wrote, adding that no students or staff members in the House are exposed to asbestos in ways that would break building codes. Read more
By Jillian Duff, http://www.mesothelioma.com/
Construction workers at George Washington Senior High School in Cedar Rapids failed to meet asbestos removal regulations. As a result, fibers from the hazardous material became airborne and now the school is closed for further abatement and testing.
According to the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s Manger of Buildings and Grounds Rob Kleinsmith, construction was occurring to finish the third and final year of replacing the school’s heating and ventilation system when the asbestos was discovered.
Environmental Program Supervisor in the Department of Natural Resources’ Air Quality Bureau Brian Hutchins, said, “The material isn’t a health risk as long as it’s properly contained.”
Currently, laws do not exist to mandate removal of all asbestos from schools, but each school should have a management plan in case the toxic mineral becomes damaged and no longer contained. By law, parents can review the management plan in place and if no action is taken to correct the situation soon, the local U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be notified immediately. Read more
By Matt Gray, NJ.com
A Voorhees man was sentenced to one year and a day in prison Tuesday for claiming he had removed asbestos from a former church when he never actually did the work, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ronen Bakshi, 54, submitted false documents to the City of Philadelphia’s Air Management Services office in connection with a project to remove asbestos-containing material from a former church at 1133 Spring Garden St.
Bakshi billed the non-profit owner of the property for work he never performed, authorities said. Read more
By Tim Povtak, http://www.asbestos.com/
Sheet metal workers rarely handle asbestos directly, but they remain seven times more likely to die from mesothelioma – the rare cancer caused by it – than the general population, a recent study shows.
The findings published earlier this year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reiterated the long-held but increasingly-debated belief that even indirect exposure to toxic asbestos remains a serious threat, long after its use as a building material was reduced dramatically in the U.S.
“The most important thing to take from this study is that you didn’t have to work with asbestos directly to be in danger,” Dr. Laura Welch, medical director at the Center for Construction Research and Training in Silver Springs, Maryland, told Asbestos.com. “All you had to do is be around it.” Read more
BY Bonhia Lee, http://www.fresnobee.com/
Asbestos removal in the nearly century-old house, which was once used as a Halloween attraction and featured on a number of ghost investigation television shows, began Monday, paving the way for demolition of the building early next month.
The city of Clovis has forged ahead with plans to clean up the 1.25-acre property, southwest of Sierra Vista Mall on Clovis Avenue, after trying to work with owner Todd Wolfe on giving the house and the land a new life.
“We’ve been working with Mr. Wolfe for at least the last five years to do something with this site,” said John Holt, Clovis assistant city manager. “Ultimately, he was either unwilling or unable to either have investors put money in the project.”
Wolfe, however, is still trying to sell the house and even offers to donate it for free to the right buyer who is willing to move it. If all his efforts fail, he hopes to at least be given some time to salvage anything of historical value from the house so he can sell it later.
“We thought we had more time,” Wolfe said.
Clovis designated the house “unsafe to occupy” about two years ago. Then the city’s Board of Appeals declared the vacant house a nuisance last year and a danger after finding 22 building code violations.
The city described the structure as “unsightly and in a state of disrepair.” The roughly 5,000-square-foot house had excessive “cracking, peeling, chalking, dry rot and warping.” Read more
BY Jordan Schrader, http://www.thenewstribune.com
The state has fired the supervisor of an inmate work crew that used shoddy and potentially dangerous work practices in cleaning up asbestos, records show.
The agency deployed a crew of about eight male inmates from Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock in June 2013 to remove and dispose of 4,000 square feet of old vinyl floor tiles and adhesive in a dining area of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy.
In charge was Gary L. Baldwin, the head of the asbestos program. Baldwin is a 19-year veteran of the agency with 15 years as a certified asbestos supervisor and a clean record of performance evaluations.
At times, the inmates didn’t wear proper protective equipment or soak the dry material in water to keep dust out of the air. The crew continued working even after realizing the air-circulation system couldn’t be turned off, and it missed a spot while putting up a barrier around the dining area.
“Your actions potentially placed offenders, employees, and yourself at risk of life threatening diseases and death, as well as placed the agency at an enormous risk of future liability,” Danielle Armbruster, assistant director of DOC’s Correctional Industries, wrote in a letter dismissing Baldwin.
The agency provided the April 15 letter in response to a records request.
Baldwin is appealing the decision, the agency said. Attempts to reach him last week were unsuccessful.
When questioned by investigators, he alternately described what was done as common practice and blamed inmates for failing to follow procedures they had been taught.
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
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
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
By Jason Clayworth, http://www.desmoinesregister.com
A contractor’s complaint has prompted closer scrutiny of possible asbestos exposure involving workers at a downtown Des Moines renovation project, but an inspector doesn’t even visit hundreds of sites across Iowa each year where workers could face risks from the cancer-causing material.
The routine lack of asbestos-handling inspections at construction sites in Iowa and across the nation represents a widespread failure to protect the public, environmental safety advocates say.
In Iowa, one inspector enforces U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asbestos removal regulations and oversees as many as 4,500 asbestos removal projects each year. Another inspector must try to enforce federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration asbestos regulations.
“It’s safe to say that enforcement of asbestos regulations nationwide is abysmal,” said Brent Kynoch of the Environmental Information Association, a group based in Maryland focused on health hazards in buildings, specifically asbestos.
“There are no budgets with either the state or federal governments to put the kind of inspection staff out there that we really would require to enforce the regulations,” Kynoch said. Read More