In mid-June, the small Massachusetts town of Clinton had a scare. As a result of asbestos-removal work at a former American Legion Post performed by Economic Enviro Tech, Inc. (EETI), the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) assessed a $2,000 fine.
It’s not a lot of money if you’re New York City, but to the small town of Clinton – already struggling with its budget in the face of the current recession and the costs of building a senior facility on the former American Legion Post property – it was more than the town could handle.
The property, owned at the time of the DEP fine by Construction Dynamics, is now the sole property of the town of Clinton. The MassDEP fine is not. According to DEP spokesman Ed Coletta, the fault – and the fine – lies solely with EETI.
The problem started in the fall of 2008, when a MassDEP inspection of the property revealed that EETI had been removing asbestos-containing insulation from the American Legion building without properly sealing the work area and adequately wetting the debris, as required by both MassDEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The EPA regulations are established under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP rules.
The building was unoccupied and slated for demolition at the time. The city of Clinton later bought the property and built the senior facility, but assumed no responsibility for Leominster-based EETI’s failure to abide by the regulations.
MassDEP regulations require licensed asbestos remediation contractors to prevent the escape of asbestos particles that can trigger illnesses by sealing remediation areas, wetting asbestos-laden debris, filtering the air, appropriately packing and labeling debris for delivery to an approved disposal site, wearing appropriate equipment, and sampling the air at conclusion to make sure no contamination has occurred.
These steps minimize asbestos exposure, not only to workers but to the public which will presumably occupy or visit the site after remediation and demolition (or renovation), as is the case with the American Legion/Senior Care Center.
The building may be new, but the ground around the building likely contains asbestos particles, which will eventually be disturbed by landscaping, further utility installations, or simple foot traffic.
Asbestos fibers, once released into the air and inhaled or ingested, can cause asbestosis (a debilitating respiratory disease), various lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma, a uniquely asbestos-related cancer of the mesothelial lining of the lungs and abdomen.
Malignant mesothelioma, one of the “silent killer” diseases, commonly lies dormant for decades before producing symptoms definitive enough to allow diagnosis. Those diagnosed are seldom given more than a year or 18 months to live.
The asbestos contamination is particularly unfortunate in what is now a senior center, since most seniors face enough health problems without the risk of asbestosis being added.
The MassDEP advises building owners or contractors to check with the agency regarding mandatory asbestos-removal procedures before proceeding with any renovations.
Sources: Massachusetts DEP, WickedLocal.com