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EPA Seeks Big Fines For Asbestos Violations

Release Date: 8/27/1999
Contact Information: Kathleen Johnson and Ann Wawrukiewicz
(206) 553-1757 and (206) 553-1172

August 27, 1999 - - - - - - - - - - - 99-34


Five Alaska entities have been named in three separate administrative complaints by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for asbestos violations. Alaska Abatement Corporation (AAC), an asbestos removal contractor, is listed two of the cases. The EPA is seeking a total of $77,975 in civil penalties from the cases.

The Alaska Legislature’s Terry Miller Building, formerly the Capital School, in Juneau, underwent renovation in late summer and fall of 1998. The EPA complaint alleges that the Legislative Affairs Agency, acting as its own general contractor, failed to adequately inspect the building for asbestos prior to the renovation. The complaint seeks $11,000 in civil penalties for the violation.

At the U.S. Coast Guard’s Tank Farm in Kodiak, the Chugach Development Corporation and the Alaska Abatement Corporation (AAC) were contracted to remove asbestos from underground vaults which supplied steam to heat fuel oil in the tanks. The EPA complaint alleges that the on-site supervisor for AAC was reminded in August 1998 by a federal inspector to post the required warning signs and keep the asbestos laden debris wet until disposed of. Two days later the same federal inspector observed AAC employees at the Kodiak landfill removing bags of the still-dry debris from a truck with no signs warning of the cancer causing hazard. The complaint seeks $11,600 in civil penalties.

In the third complaint, the EPA alleges that the City of Wrangell contracted with AAC to remove asbestos from the Wrangell Institute in September of 1998. While the EPA received notice from AAC that the removal was completed on September 21, an inspection by the EPA and Alaska Department of Labor (DOL) in late October turned up dry asbestos debris laying about the attic and stored in bags in a separate building. All asbestos containing waste material is required to be disposed of properly. The complaint seeks $55,375 in civil penalties.

“The threat of asbestos to workers and the public has not gone away,” said Anita Frankel, EPA’s Regional Air Quality Director. “Only through careful, attentive removal by qualified contractors can we minimize the risk of these deadly fibers that were used in tiles, pipes and insulation so many years ago. These regulations are intended to protect people’s health, and we will hold people accountable who don’t follow them.”

Exposure to asbestos can lead to numerous asbestos related diseases including asbestosis and lung cancer. Renovators are legally required to remove, handle and dispose of asbestos according to federal regulation.

“When it comes to enforcing public health and environmental regulations, federal, state, local governments and the business sector will all be held to the same standard,” said Frankel.