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Feds go after construction company for asbestos-related violations

Most anyone who owns, operates or supervises a construction company can appreciate just how dangerous asbestos is. For this and other reasons, it is baffling to hear news reports of construction companies that willfully violate laws governing safe removal of asbestos during demolition and renovation projects. Even if they have no concern for the public at large, they should at least care about how exposure could put their workers at risk.

One recent case was particularly egregious. A construction company based in Boise, Idaho, is now facing fines, probation and potential civil liability for millions of dollars for the manner in which it handled a 2009 renovation project in another Idaho city. The city had hired the company to upgrade its water lines, including 5,000 feet of concrete pipe that was known to contain asbestos.

The foreman and onsite manager allegedly failed to supervise the demolition of the old pipe, which is when asbestos would be most likely to become airborne and cause harm. The material was not encased and properly disposed of. Instead, the company used it as filler material on construction projects at 16 private properties in the area.

The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $4 million trying to clean up the disastrous mess made by this construction company. The federal government is already seeking to recoup $2.5 million at present and likely more in the future.

Although this case is a clear example of how greed and incompetence can put public health at risk, it will also hopefully serve as an important reminder that asbestos laws are enforced vigorously.

Commenting on the case, the U.S. attorney for Idaho noted that "businesses have a firm, and in this case contractual, obligation to handle harmful materials with care and in compliance with environmental regulations that protect the public from unknowing harm. This case should send the strong message that those who fail to meet these obligations will be investigated, caught and punished."

Source: Idaho Statesman, "Boise construction company fined for asbestos violation ," John Sowell, May 28, 2014

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