Blog Archives

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

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

Lead And Asbestos-Ridden ‘Alcatraz Of The East’ Available For Lease At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

 By Emily Corwin, http://nhpr.org

Credit rjzii via Flickr Creative Commons

Credit rjzii via Flickr Creative Commons

The US Navy will offer for lease the former Naval Prison on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Navy has twice before sought private-sector redevelopment of the old Naval Prison, which closed in 1974.  It was built in 1908, and has been called the “Alcatraz of the East.”

The medieval-looking multi-story building is 265,000 square feet and has 11 and a half acres of waterfront land.

The new tenant would be responsible for ensuring structural stability in the now-dilapidated building, and cleaning up hazardous waste, including asbestos and lead paint. Read More

Geologists find natural asbestos fibers in Nevada

By Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Steve Andrascik/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Removing asbestos from an old building can be hazardous and expensive. So what happens if the ground outside is covered with the stuff for miles around?

That’s what a team of UNLV geologists is trying to figure out after the surprise discovery of potentially toxic, asbestos-type minerals in rocks and dust from Boulder City to the southeastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas geology professor Brenda Buck said this marks the first discovery of naturally occurring asbestos fibers in Southern Nevada.

A peer-reviewed study detailing the find was published last month in the journal of the Soil Science Society of America.

So how worried should everyone be?

“At this point we know enough to know there is a hazard. We don’t know what the risk is,” Buck told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Until we know more, it would be a good idea to avoid dust from those areas.”

That could be a tall order.

The study area takes in all of Boulder City and a wide swath of the Eldorado Valley, with tendrils that reach to the shore of Lake Mead and into the oldest parts of Henderson.

“It’s not everywhere, but I think you’re going to have a hard time not finding it,” Buck said. “In every sample we looked at we found it. We found it pretty easily, too. I didn’t have to look very hard.”

For one test, Buck spent about three hours walking her horse along a dirt road in Boulder City. When she was done, she found asbestos fibers on her pants and her shoes.

“The last thing we want to do is upset people or cause a panic. But on the other side, we don’t want to give people assurances we can’t give,” said UNLV geologist Rodney Metcalf, who partnered with Buck on the study. “We can’t in good conscience say there’s no problem.”

The long, thin minerals were forged roughly 13 million years ago in the roots of volcanoes, also known as plutons. “Boulder City sits on top of one of these plutons,” Metcalf said.

The fibers have been weathering from the ground for the past 12 million years or so, giving them plenty of time to spread out, Buck said.

She specializes in something called medical geology, basically the study of the health impacts of minerals. She was in the midst of sampling arsenic in the dust blowing from Nellis Dunes when she came across a fibrous mineral in one of her samples. She later started talking to Metcalf about the asbestos-like fibers he was studying in northwestern Arizona, and the two decided to go looking for trouble in similar rock deposits in Southern Nevada.

What they mostly found was a mineral called actinolite, one of six types of asbestos regulated as a toxic substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read More

Contractor finds asbestos while repairing bridge

By Patricia Mazzei, http://www.miamiherald.com

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

A contractor repairing the bridge that connects Virginia Key to Key Biscayne has found asbestos on a tube containing electrical wiring for street lights – an unforeseen condition that could delay the project’s completion.

Kiewit Infrastructure found the asbestos when it demolished a portion of the Bear Cut Bridge’s roadway in August, according to a memo Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent county commissioners Friday. The company has been removing and disposing of the tainted material.

The extra work could push back the repairs by several weeks, according to the memo. Kiewit has claimed a 36-day delay, though the county is still negotiating that number.

As part of bonds scheduled for commission approval in December, $750,000 in funding would be set aside to handle the asbestos. The final costs of the fix are still being negotiated. Read More

 

Temple City disposes of more than 700 public documents due to asbestos contamination

By Zen Vuong, http://www.pasadenastarnews.com

The City Council passed a resolution Tuesday declaring seven filing cabinets’ worth of public records “toxic” and had a contractor dispose of the infected files on Wednesday.

The documents were contaminated with asbestos dust or friable asbestos, so safety was a concern, said City Attorney Eric Vail.

“Because paper is porous, there’s no way to save the paper, and they essentially become toxic,” Vail said. “You’d have to have someone in a hazardous material suit scanning the documents (if you want to preserve them). It’s very costly and it’s also very dangerous.”

City staff provided the public with a 36-page list of 759 documents that Alliance Environmental Group, an asbestos removal service, removed from the city’s premises on Wednesday. Documents are listed in categories such as permits, agreements (with companies), city charter, legal and conflict of interest.

The list includes “original certificate from Secretary of State declaring incorporation of the City of Temple City” and “Sunnyslope Water Company versus City of Temple City,” which is categorized under “legal.”

While exposure to tiny, flexible asbestos fibers causes some people to develop health problems, others are unaffected, reported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health dangers include chronic respiratory disease or lung, stomach and kidney cancers.

The public would misplace their concern if they worried the disposal of public documents dating back to 1964 and extending all the way to December 2012 is questionable, Vail said.

Other lawyers who specialize in public freedom of information rights are skeptical.

“Destroying documents that are less than two years old sounds like it violates the spirit of the public records act,” said Don Zachary, an attorney and adjunct professor at USC. “On its face, it sounds like this municipality is ignoring that reality in an effort to be super safe with regard to the asbestos dust.” Read More

 

Landowners blast EPA cleanup

By Seaborn Larson, http://www.thewesternnews.com

Before Judy Lundstrom finally agreed to let the Environmental Protection Agency remove asbestos from her property, she wanted to know what her yard would look like after cleanup workers dug up the soil and removed the contaminated material.

Lundstrom, 72, said she was told by an EPA official that her yard, pasture, flower beds and garden would be “put back the same way, if not better.”

Three years later, after countless visits by EPA officials and contractors, Lundstrom said she has had enough. The asbestos has been removed, but she fears her property will never look as good as it once did.

“After they first did my lawn in 2010, I told them ‘This isn’t right. It shouldn’t be this way,'” Lundstrom said. “I’ve been going through this with (the EPA) for three years now. As far as I’m concerned they haven’t done anything right. It’s been a nightmare.” Read More