We have often blogged about the dangers of asbestos exposure during building demolition work. On February 20, a bipartisan group of Michigan state legislators introduced a bill in the state House of Representatives that, if passed, would more tightly regulate asbestos abatement contracts with state public entities.
Part of the incentive for this legislation was investigative journalism by the Detroit Free Press over the past couple of years that shined a light on asbestos releases during a massive demolition project taken on by the city of Detroit in an effort to eliminate blighted neighborhoods, according to the Free Press, as well as on related work safety violations and lax enforcement.
The articles highlighted violations of worker and environmental safety laws during the blight-removal project. Workers were reportedly not given protective clothing and equipment and asbestos-containing materials were not safely handled and disposed of following demolition activities.
The goal of the law would be tighten protections for demolition workers as well as for neighborhood residents from potential asbestos exposure. Some of the important bill provisions include:
- Asbestos abatement contractors would have to report the past five years of state or federal environmental law violations when bidding on certain public contracts.
- Pending proof of compliance, public agencies could withhold payment if abatement contractors received more than five environmental violations in the past year.
- Certain public entities would be required to conduct criminal background checks of potential asbestos removal companies. Certain violations would prevent the contractors from being awarded public contracts.
- The asbestos inspection program of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would be strengthened by increased funding through fees and new reporting requirements.
For now, the bill is with the House Committee on Natural Resources for review.