Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Public Libraries around Nation Facing Asbestos Remediation

As the nation's public libraries age, they - like schools - face updates that result in closures, often because older buildings like schools and libraries contain significant amounts of asbestos that represent a threat to public health.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used in insulation, floor and roofing tiles, tile glues, and some ceiling panels up to the 1970s, when U.S. health officials began to recognize its dangers, is the most common cause of certain illnesses, namely asbestosis - a severe, debilitating respiratory disease - lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a particularly lethal form of cancer that commonly lies dormant for several decades before producing enough symptoms to allow for diagnosis. When finally diagnosed, however, most patients are given about a year to live. Fewer than 10 percent live five years, even with second generation chemotherapy agents like Alimta, combination therapies, and radical surgery to remove tumors.
The Wilson Library in Bellingham, Washington - which was closed for asbestos remediation and remodeling recently - was reopened and then closed again from approximately 8:45 a.m. to 9:25 a.m, Pacific time, Friday morning due to an error in the ventilation system's automatic programming. The remediation and remodeling was scheduled to be completed on Thursday, and the ventilation system automatically set to run again on Friday morning.
Unfortunately, the project was not completed on time, but the ventilation system went on again regardless.
Students and library employees were evacuated as soon as the error was realized, about 8:45, and allowed to return about an hour later, after air quality tests were conducted to insure that the library's air was free of asbestos particles.
The Wilson Library, as part of Western Washington University (WWU), falls under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPAs) Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) guidelines in terms of asbestos management, so students, faculty and staff were sent e-mails informing them of the nature of the event and the reasons behind the closure and re-opening.
AHERA guidelines mandate that all schools, whether public private or denominational, inspect for asbestos; create an asbestos hazard plan; provide yearly information on asbestos hazards and the plan; inform of any abatement actions that take place (or are planned); designate a contact/liaison person to manage the asbestos plan; and provide custodial staff with asbestos-awareness training.
Western Washington University's Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Gayle Shipley, and WWU staff acted in accordance with the university's AHERA planning by advising of the action taken; i.e., the 8:45 closure, but clearly one step in the process was missed or the ventilation system would not have come back on when it did, and this may be why the EPA strongly recommends its six-step plan to insure that at least one individual is cognizant of all phases of asbestos remediation, monitoring and information dissemination.
That more libraries, both public and collegiate, will face asbestos remediation of some kind in the near future is a given. In Minnesota, the Waseca Public Library is getting ready to close from July 30 to August 23 to enable workers to remove old asbestos tiles and replace them with carpeting. And in Minneapolis, the historic Southeast Library - designed by renowned Minnesota modernist architect Ralph Rapson in 1964 - was closed in 2006 as part of budget reorganization but now faces reopening thanks to the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Library systems merger.
Southeast Library will admittedly need asbestos abatement and a new roof, but its demolition (which was discouraged by historians who appealed to the City of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the City Council to designate the building as an historic landmark) has been avoided.
According to one study, it is as costly and time-consuming to demolish a building with asbestos and remove the debris to an approved landfill as it is to perform asbestos remediation and return the structure to use. This is primarily because asbestos abatement has to take place even where demolition is planned, and because hazardous waste landfills are becoming increasingly crowded, leading to higher and higher costs for dumping asbestos debris.
In fact, the real cost of restoring, reusing and re-purposing older buildings lies in renovation and retrofitting, not in asbestos remediation.

Concord Steam Plant Fined for Asbestos, Other Violations

On June 20, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, cited Concord Steam Corp. of Concord, New Hampshire for 73 alleged violations of OSHA's safety standards.
The charges stem from an injury at the Concord Steam Plant, a wood- and biomass-fired facility which provides downtown Concord with piped steam heat through eight miles of insulated piping to state government buildings and two local hospitals. The plant also produces electricity for sale to regional utilities.
The worker in question was seriously burned in a Jan. 22 fire that happened when pressurized oil leaked from a boiler and caught fire. The company has been assessed $104,200 in proposed fines for willful, serious, and other-than-serious lapses in plant safety, among them the presence of asbestos-containing (and potentially asbestos-containing) debris.
The asbestos alone is a significant health hazard, raising the specter of asbestosis, certain lung and digestive system tumors, and mesothelioma, a generally lethal form of cancer of the mesothelial linings of the chest and abdomen - all of them resulting primarily from asbestos exposure. The worst, however, is mesothelioma, which typically lies dormant for about three generations before producing symptoms of such seriousness a diagnosis is always positive, and highly negative in terms of survival rates.
According to reports, the OSHA inspection triggered by worker injury resulted in finding boiler doors that were cracked, bulging and unable to be closed, raising the risk of fire and explosion if combustible materials in the plant, like piles of wood dust, ignited, as happened during the inspection.
OSHA also cited the plant for other chemical, mechanical, electrical, and combustion hazards which could lead not only to asbestos-related diseases, but to cuts, burns, falls, electrocution, suffocation, and crushing injuries of the limbs and torso. The citations include (safety) exits that were blocked or unmarked; failure to survey for asbestos, advise workers of its presence, clean it up or train workers in safe asbestos practices; an untrained and unequipped fire management team; the lack of alarms or an emergency action plan; untested and uninspected fire extinguishers; inadequacy of the plant's confined space, respirator and lockout/tagout programs (which enable workers to disable and mark inoperable or dangerous systems); inexperienced fork lift operators; unguarded machinery; and a failure to mark hazardous chemicals and maintain a chemical hazard safety protocol.
The citations include one willful violation with a fine of $22,000 based on asbestos accumulations, 65 serious citations with a fine of $79,800, and seven less-than-serious citations with $2,400 in fines for substandard injury and illness recording and reporting.
Concord Steam Corp. has until August 3 to either comply or contest. Concord Steam Vice President Mark Salzman had no comment except to say the company is reviewing the citations. A meeting with OSHA representatives is scheduled for August 10.
Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in Concord, notes that the defects must be "fully and effectively corrected".
One other major concern is the steam pipes under the city of Concord, which are likely wrapped with asbestos and in serious need of replacement or repair, according to one observer. Should they explode, the asbestos hazard inside the plant would extend to the streets of Concord, exacerbated by the possibility that scalding steam might cause serious injury to passersby.
Given that Concord steam leases the building from the state, the liability in that instance could become widespread.

Asbestos Removal Completed in New Jersey Firehouse

After a renovation project that took seven years and cost nearly four million dollars, firemen from the South Orange, New Jersey, fire department moved back into their historic firehouse. One of the reasons that the work was so lengthy and costly was the discovery of asbestos in the walls.
South Orange village treasurer and chief financial officer John Gross said that the project would have been completed on time and within budget were it not for the extensive labor involved in asbestos removal and disposal. "Asbestos was discovered in the walls and the ceilings," said Mr. Gross, "So there was $700,000 in unanticipated cost."
The asbestos findings added much more work to the renovation of the old firehouse, originally built in 1925 to house horse-drawn fire trucks. The affected walls and ceilings had to be stripped bare to remove the dangerous substance. Also, additional safety measures had to be put in place to protect workers from asbestos exposure. The project also required that workers employ environmentally safe disposal techniques for the asbestos, which also added to the project costs.
The original project was supposed to be completed within eighteen months, according to South Orange Fire Chief Jeffrey Markey, a thirty-four year veteran of the department. During the asbestos remediation, firefighters were housed in trailers while fire trucks and other equipment were often left in the elements. He said, "We had a lot of mechanical problems from them being out in the weather - valves, electrical connections. Fire trucks are meant to be housed. They should work in all weather, but they are not meant to be sitting out there."
One of the phases of the renovation called for a new system to deal with heating, cooling and ventilation of the old building. This phase of the project could not take place until the asbestos remediation was complete. If asbestos fibers had leached into the ventilation system, the exposure to asbestos could have caused serious health problems for the firefighters and other staff in the building.
Chief Markey also had ten years of experience as an architectural draftsman before joining the fire department. He wanted to make sure that contractors and other workers on the historic site kept the look and feel of the building intact while making it safe for his firefighters and bringing it up to date for the twenty-first century. He said, "It took a tremendous amount of oversight. We had the opportunity to have a clean slate."
Other village officials, while relieved at the completion of the project, were not as pleased with the cost overruns, length of time involved, or the inconveniences incurred while the work was underway. South Orange Village President Douglas Newman said, "While completion of renovations to South Orange's historic firehouse have taken far longer than anyone reasonable could have imagined, it's gratifying to see this important project finally completed." Village Trustee Michael Goldberg called the project, "an example of everything not to do."

HR 682, Re 2005 Asbestos Trust Trading, Reintroduced

On June 12, HR 682, also known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.
The law relates to insider trading as a result of insider information gained by members of Congress or the legislative, administrative and judicial branches of government.
First introduced in 2006 by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA), brought up again in 2008, and now reintroduced for a third time, the bill was ostensibly inspired by the trading activities of Tony Rudy, a former aide to ex-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
But it has a larger connection, one related to asbestos and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who in 2005 announced to the upper chamber of the Congress that laws would soon be put in place to provide a multi-billion dollar fund to settle legacy asbestos lawsuits, many of which had resulted in bankruptcy for major corporations like Johns Manville and Owens Corning.
It was big, and very new news to most of the nation, but not to Wall Street investors apparently. The day before Frist's announcement, shares in Chicago-based USG Corp., the world's largest sheetrock manufacturer - which had filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2001 in relation to its gypsum wallboard unit - jumped more than $2, with trading up by 300 percent. The obvious conclusion was that news of the trust had leaked from Congress to the Street.
Unfortunately, given current law, trading on such information is perfectly legal, and will continue to be until HR 682 is passed by Congress and signed into law. The question is, given the influence of politicians in the financial sector, are members of Congress willing to pass a law that limits their freedom to use such information to their advantage?
HR 682 aims to correct the imbalance by requiring lawmakers to disclose stock transactions of $1,000 or more within 90 days, and forcing political intelligence groups like Prudential Financial Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.(the largest bankruptcy in the U.S., at $600 billion in assets), and Stanford Washington Research Group, to register with the government just like lobbying firms.
These firms, which have operated without impunity and largely without government oversight since their emergence in the 1970s, provide investors with inside information about pending legislation that will influence stock prices and the market, as demonstrated by the USG episode.
The transparency of such a law would do a great deal to improve confidence in Wall Street, at least in the eyes of most Americans, who have become seriously disenchanted with insider trading, hedge funds and derivatives as a result of the recent recession, which many tie to the housing bubble burst of 2008.
More important, it would prevent similar abuses in the future by impeding companies like USG and shareholders from capitalizing on pending legislation, which had the unfortunate effect (in USG's case) of benefiting the company and its shareholders while doing nothing to minimize legacy asbestos costs or aid those suffering with asbestos-related injuries or illnesses as a result of working for such firms.
Asbestos-related diseases are among the most distressing and lethal of illnesses, resulting in everything from asbestosis - a severe and debilitating respiratory ailment - to respiratory and digestive system cancers. Of these latter, the most serious is mesothelioma, which has a decades-long onset before producing symptoms. Mesothelioma is largely considered incurable, and most patients diagnosed are given about a year to live - a situation recently improved, if only slightly, by newer drugs like Alimta (pemetrexed), and dual drug therapies.

St. Louis Judge Reverses Judgment in Asbestos Case

The federal judge who heard the case regarding improper treatment of asbestos in demolished buildings near the St. Louis airport reversed her earlier decision last week. The case dealt with houses near the airport that were demolished to make room for a new runway. A group of concerned residents in the nearby town of Bridgeton filed the suit, claiming that airport authorities used improper techniques to tear down the buildings and that they did not employ proper asbestos disposal methods.
The local residents claim that contractors sprayed the potentially toxic asbestos fibers down with water, a technique known as the "wet method", to keep the fibers from becoming airborne. Airborne asbestos fibers are known to cause mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer in people who breathe them in. The "wet method" is much faster and cheaper than standard remediation and disposal methods. Contractors received approval to use the "wet method" from St. Louis County Health Department officials, although the tactic does not meet with federal environmental regulations.
Last September, U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson ruled in favor of the citizens' group, called FACTS (Families for Asbestos Compliance, Testing and Safety) and stated that officials with the city and the airport violated federal regulations. After the judge made her ruling, attorneys for the airport and the city asserted that the group did not have the standing to file the original suit.
Judge Jackson reversed her earlier ruling and stated that FACTS did not have the standing to make the earlier claim. According to the reversed ruling, the group would have had to show that such violations were either in the process of happening or would occur in the near future. Since the last asbestos treatment occurred in the summer of 2004, the judge said that neither set of circumstances applied in this case. When the suit originated in May 2005, the demolitions had already been completed.
This reversal prevents airport and city authorities from incurring any penalties for the demolitions. Gerald Slay, Senior Deputy Director of St. Louis' Lambert International Airport, was pleased with the decision. He asserted that he and other airport authorities acted to protect both the health of the public and the sanctity of the environment during the demolitions and did their best to follow all laws and regulations in the process.
Jim Hecker, an attorney with the group Public Justice who represented FACTS in the case, disagreed with the reversal but has not made a decision on whether or not to appeal the verdict. He did say that the case signified a "major victory" for the group. Although the residents in the St. Louis case had their ruling reversed, the effect of the earlier verdict has been to stop the "wet method" of asbestos treatment in other cities.
In 2003, Missouri Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond swayed EPA Administrator and former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman to allow St. Louis contractors to use the method in place of the more expensive asbestos cleanup processes. According to Becky Dolph, EPA Deputy Counsel, federal regulations allow for "wet method" treatments when a building in immediate danger of structural collapse has been targeted for demolition, as the building may not be viable enough to withstand more stringent asbestos removal methods. She said that, in this case, St. Louis city officials used the method in cases where the "immediate danger" criterion did not apply.

Univ. of Kentucky Student Center Undergoes Remodel, Asbestos Remediation

The student center at the University of Kentucky (UK) is undergoing a renovation in what appears to be full compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) regulations, which govern all U.S. schools - whether private, public or for-profit. That is, the rooms are sealed with plastic sheeting and signs posted to alert the unwary that professional asbestos remediation is taking place.
According to UK's Director of Environmental Management Bob Kjelland, the floor tiles and glue have been confirmed to contain asbestos, but Kjelland stresses that there is nothing to worry about. He and his team have everything under control, including a post-remediation, 24-hour air quality assessment, scheduled for July 21, which will confirm that any asbestos particle levels that might have escaped are within safe levels.
After that, work will resume on rooms 111, 113, 115, 117 and 119, in the oldest part of the student center, where old carpet covers even older tile. Student Center Director Rhonda King estimates the age of both at about 60 years. The university itself was built in 1865.
Once the antiquated and potentially dangerous floor tiles are out, phase 2 - largely consisting of surface renovations - can begin.
Kjelland was also quick to point out that the remediation presents no real dangers as long as the tiles remain in unbroken condition. It is only when asbestos-containing materials are broken, crushed or damaged that asbestos fibers leak out.
Then, they have the potential to cause a number of asbestos-related diseases including asbestosis, certain lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma. The first, a chronic and debilitating respiratory disease, is usually developed after prolonged exposure, but the latter three - particularly mesothelioma, which is cancer of the mesothelial lining of the chest or abdomen - can be triggered by a single instance of contact. In fact, none of the agencies charged with monitoring, reporting and dealing with asbestos-related diseases - OSHA, the CDC, nor the American Cancer Society - has ever established minimum, safe levels of asbestos exposure.
The university-wide policy, based on AHERA regulations, is to hire a certified professional to remove the tiles, Kjelland notes. Because the contractor the university uses is accredited, and does at least 10 similar procedures a month, anything that might go wrong can be quickly and safely dealt with, though Kjelland emphasizes the remediation/renovation is routine.
The university also posted signs around the rooms to notify students and the public, and the sheeting serves to restrict access and confine any dispersal of particles.
The renovations, consisting of new flooring, furniture, paint and blinds, will eventually take place in all the first floor rooms of the student center, as well as in several other locations throughout the building. The remediation/renovations are staged so as not to severely impact the university's budget, which - like the rest of the country - has fallen on difficult times.
This summer was chosen, according to King, because it provided an interval when the high-traffic rooms wouldn't be so much in demand. The university served almost 27,000 students in the 2008-09 school year, 70 percent of them undergraduates and 88 percent attending full-time.

N. Carolina Asbestos Textile Workers Show High Mortality Rates

A new study by Duke University, in conjunction with the University of Nevada (UNR) and the University of North Carolina, shows that former North Carolina workers employed in asbestos-textile plants have a definitively higher rate of asbestos-related diseases than the population at large.
The study, headed by Dana Loomis, Interim Director, UNR's School of Community Health Sciences, examined 5,770 employees who worked at least one day between January 1, 1950 and December 31, 1973.
The results, which showed that the mortality rate was significantly higher for all causes (1.47 as compared to a value of 1.00 for the general population), also showed that deaths from lung cancer ranked at 1.96 (as compared to a value of 1.00).
The rate of deaths from pleural cancer (also called mesothelioma) was also elevated, as was pneumonoconiosis, with risks for other types of lung cancers and asbestosis rising with cumulative asbestos fiber exposures.
The pleura are the membranes that line the inside of the chest cavity and surround the lungs, enabling the lungs to expand to the appropriate degree inside the diaphragm when people breathe. Pleural mesothelioma is a type of pleural cancer caused primarily by asbestos fibers, and is the most common type of mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers, inhaled, result in irritation of the pleura, or mesothelial lining. Because the body has no way to expel the fibers, the persistent irritation leads to lesions, which in turn lead to cancer.
Pneumoconiosis, the second category of occupational lung diseases, is an interstitial disease, a classic example of which is pulmonary fibrosis. Interstitial diseases affect the walls of the air sacs inside the lungs, rather than the pleural lining over the lungs, and result in scarring. This, in turn, limits a lung's ability to expand properly. Medication can occasionally slow the progress of pneumoconiosis, but many individuals, once affected, never regain the full use of their lungs, and lung transplants are the only option.
Asbestosis is a breathing disorder specifically caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, and is usually a cumulative effect, arising after years of exposure. The fibers cause lung scarring, which can gradually restrict breathing to such an extent that patients are unable to walk more than a few feet without stopping, and require constant oxygen. The symptoms, which can range from mild to severe depending on exposure and a person's general stamina, commonly don't appear until years after exposure to asbestos fibers.
The Duke, UNR study demonstrated a statistical risk across the entire spectrum of 2 to 3 percent higher for each year asbestos fibers were inhaled - figures which were more consistent among white males than for any other group surveyed. The second at-risk category was white females, and both groups scored higher in the risk assessment categories than black males, presumably because the latter group saw fewer smokers and workers who occupied different regions of the asbestos textile plants, namely preparation and carding operations, where fibers were shorter than in the spinning and twisting sections where white males generally worked, according to transmission electron microscopy, or TEM, analyses.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations (limiting asbestos to 1 percent of product by weight or volume) have driven the asbestos textile industry overseas. This is good news for American workers, but not so good for workers in places like Korea and Egypt, for example.
Attempts by the United Nations to add asbestos to the list of hazardous substances already on the Rotterdam Convention have been consistently opposed by Canada, which is the world's largest supplier of chrysotile asbestos.

Vermont School District Sues for Irregular Handling of Asbestos Flooring

In Vermont, the Montpelier School District is seeking restitution from South Barre-based Morrison-Clark, Inc., a family-owned regional floor covering sales and installation dealership.
The suit results from what Montpelier School District officials described as damages resulting from Morrison-Clark's questionable handling of asbestos debris cleanup last summer at a renovation at Main Street Middle School.
The debris resulted from the removal of what the Vermont Department of Health believes were asbestos tiles, and the damages - $88,379 - are in consequence of that removal, which was not conducted under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), designed to prevent or mitigate asbestos-related exposures in schools, whether public, private or religious.
The AHERA provisions mandate a regimen of observational, informational and instructional policies that protect America's school-age children, and include: inspection (and re-inspection) for asbestos; the development of an asbestos management plan; dissemination of the plan and any asbestos remediation or abatement plans scheduled or undertaken; the designation of an asbestos liaison person; the use of licensed personnel in inspection, remediation or abatement; asbestos-awareness training for custodial staff.
Asbestos fibers, released from broken, damaged or otherwise friable asbestos-containing materials, can be ingested or inhaled, and lead to a number of diseases, including asbestosis - a debilitating respiratory ailment resulting from prolonged asbestos exposure - to various lung and digestive system cancers, including mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelial lining of the lungs and abdomen, the most common of which is pleural (lung) mesothelioma. Because the disease does not produce significant symptoms for up to five decades, it is usually found to have invaded, and involved, major organs like the heart and lungs. It is commonly fatal, and most patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are given from a year to 18 months to live. Ten percent may survive up to five years.
The issue first surfaced a year ago, when the school was closed after a Vermont Department of Health investigator saw Morrison-Clark installers removing what it believed were asbestos tiles with a mechanical chipper, which rapidly removes tile surfaces in pieces via a moving blade. The workers also reportedly failed to provide ventilation protection (sealed spaces, positive-air pressure, and intermittent air sampling) as mandated by state law.
Appropriate measures were later undertaken, and the work resumed, but the ensuing delay resulted in Main Street Middle School students returning to the building five days after the start of the 2008-09 school year. The school district has refused to pay for the work accomplished because asbestos dust was found in a ventilation duct, but still hopes to settle the matter out of court.
The school district charges the firm with neglect for failing to follow state regulations during removal; breach of contract for stating that the work would meet said regulations; and consumer fraud because the firm represented itself as having the experience to complete the work according to regulations. Costs to the school district include almost $24,000 to hire a licensed asbestos removal and decontamination firm, another $26,400 for another, similar contractor, and miscellaneous fees, and $38,000 in miscellaneous costs - part of which may represent emotional distress and anxiety suffered by employees working in the school at the time.
Morrison-Clark legal representatives insist workers did follow state regulations - even to the use of an approved asbestos-tile chipper - and that no asbestos contamination was ever found. The company also says it complied with wet-asbestos removal and disposal requirements set by the state, and disagrees with the Vermont Dept. of Health inspector's interpretation of events.
In addition to the school district suit, Morrison-Clark has also been fined by Vermont's OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) division. The Vermont Department of Health and the state's environmental protection division may also enforce some type of administrative action, discipline or fines.

Connecticut Factory Fire Raises Asbestos Concerns

A fire at a former Connecticut paper mill was put out earlier this week, but some of the findings amidst the ashes, have raised potential health concerns for area residents. The early-morning fire started at the Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation factory in the town of Torrington. The fire at the facility was so extensive that numerous area roads had to be sealed off and residents in nearby homes had to be evacuated.
Although the factory is no longer active, a local firm, Daley Moving and Storage, still uses the building as a storage warehouse. The company's owners were out of town on vacation when the fire broke out, but they said that they planned on coming back to inspect the damage. One witness claimed to have seen the roof on the complex's central building collapse during the blaze.
Investigators from Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection tested air samples a few hours after the fire. They found asbestos particles in three of the six samples they tested. Although long-term exposure to asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, state environmental officials stated that the brief exposure periods during and after the fire did not constitute a serious health risk to the firefighters or to residents of the neighboring areas.
Also, investigators said, the asbestos on the site was stored in an encapsulated form. In this form, the dangerous fibers were chemically bound to the construction material. When encapsulated asbestos burns, the smoke and fumes from it would not pose the same danger as exposure to loose fibers would.
One of the area residents, Chuck Martin, expressed concern about the asbestos exposure. As a contractor who has worked inside the facility's older buildings, he stated that all of the structures on the site contained asbestos. Mr. Martin also spoke of his wife, who has respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, and how she had to stay inside their house all day due to the smoke and fumes from the fire.
Several reports had the fire becoming so vast that it went to four alarms. Numerous off-duty Torrington firefighters were called in to put out the blaze, as well as volunteers from nearby towns of Litchfield, Harwinton and Thomaston. Torrington Fire Chief John Field said that the fire burned so hot that vinyl siding on nearby homes melted off the exterior walls. He also credited his firefighters for keeping the blaze under control. The factory complex held six buildings in all, but the quick response from local departments kept the fire limited to the central structure.
The first alarm on the fire was reported at 5 a.m., but it grew to four alarms within three hours. Firefighters brought the blaze under control just after 9 a.m. and had it completely extinguished by 2 p.m. More than fifty firefighters were called in to put out the inferno, with one taken to the hospital to recover from oxygen deprivation, one treated briefly for a sprained joint and three others treated for heat exhaustion. State and local arson investigators are examining the cause of the blaze.

Soldier's Home Superintendent Morin's Asbestos Charges Not Dismissed

On Dec. 18, 2008, Paul Morin, 56, of Chicopee, Massachusetts was indicted by a federal grand jury for reportedly violating the Clean Air Act, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provision made law in 1990 by the U.S. Congress.
The Act has a number of provisions, particularly several governing asbestos remediation and removal, under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP rules, and this is the part Morin violated by improperly removing a wall containing asbestos in a state-run veteran's hospice care center known as the Soldier's Home. Morin had been superintendent at the Home for a decade before the incident.
In October of 2007, Morin - who had returned from a year's sabbatical only two months before, and accepted a position as national commander of the American Legion - reportedly ordered maintenance workers at the facility to remove the wall using sledgehammers during a renovation of the facility, even though he had been warned that such a process could disturb asbestos insulation inside the wall, potentially exposing both untrained and unprotected workers, and the Home's occupants, to asbestos contamination.
Asbestos was widely used during most of the last century, both in building insulation and floor and ceiling (acoustical) tiles. Undisturbed, it is relatively harmless. Once broken or released, however, its fibers - ingested or inhaled - can lead to lung and digestive system cancers, notably pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the mesothelial lining of the lungs that is generally regarded as lethal. Fewer than ten percent of mesothelioma victims survive more than five years. Long exposure to asbestos is also the primary cause of asbestosis, though a single exposure can potentially result in mesothelioma.
The removal triggered an investigation by the state's Environmental Crimes Strike Force, working for the Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, which subsequently resulted in an indictment against Morin alleging that improper procedures ultimately resulted in an asbestos abatement project (by a licensed contractor) that ended up costing the Home more than $18,000.
The DHHS is also the agency overseeing the Soldier's Home, and as a result of the indictment Morin was placed on paid administrative leave, at $114,345 a year, pending his arraignment on Dec. 30 of 2008.
Deputy Superintendent Mike Pasterczyk was selected to replace him in the interim, and services at the Home continued without interruption. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office was slated to handle the case.
On Jan. 8 of 2009, Morin was arraigned before Judge Constance M. Sweeney in Hampden County Superior Court and pleaded innocent. Morin was subsequently released on his own personal recognizance. Joseph D. Eisenstadt, acting on behalf of the Attorney General's office, did not request bail.
Legal arguments in Morin's defense pointed out that at no time were asbestos levels over the EPA's permissible amount, and that Morin's failure to comply with NESHAP regulations was the result of what his defense described as "virtual alphabet soup" of regulators during the entire time the work was being completed.
In fact, according to Mass. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (DEP) spokesman Edmund J. Coletta, there were no regulators at the time Morin violated all the DEP's protocols, which require that worker's wear protective equipment, the area be confined, and asbestos wetted during removal and disposed of properly.
On August 7, Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder of Hampden Superior Court refused to dismiss the charges against Morin, saying his defense lawyer did not make any points worthy of his (Kinder's) consideration. Morin's case is scheduled for a final pre-trial conference Sept. 14, with a full trial on Oct. 5.
If convicted, Morin faces a fine of up to $25,000 and up to one year in jail, according to a spokesman from the Mass. AG's office. A spokeswoman for the Mass. Executive Office of Health and Human Resources also reports that Morin is actually on unpaid leave, which conflicts with earlier reports.

Bondex on Trial for Asbestos Again

In Illinois last week, a Sangamon County jury decided against St. Louis, Missouri-based Bondex International, manufacturer of textured paints, finishes and joint compounds, and for former Springfield postal worker/handyman William Willis.
The settlement is the result of an asbestos exposure trial which called into question the liability inherent in asbestos-containing products manufactured by Bondex, Minnesota-based CertainTeed Corp., and Atlanta-based paper and building products manufacturer Georgia-Pacific Corp.
Willis, 69, currently lives in Arkansas, but spent most of his life in the Springfield area and worked as a U.S. Postal Service employee on the night shift from 1966 to 1992. In addition to his scheduled work, Willis was also employed as a truck driver, bus driver, and in home construction and repair from about 1960 to about 1980.
It was as a home repair specialist that Willis came into contact with CertainTeed's asbestos-containing pipe, and pipe joint compounds made variously by Bondex, Georgia-Pacific and other firms - all of whom reportedly phased out the use of asbestos in their products in 1977.
Willis, who said he developed incurable pleural mesothelioma as a result of working with the asbestos-containing compounds, noted in his suit that - to the best of his knowledge - none of the products contained warnings about their asbestos content, or if they did the warnings were not explicit.
Asbestos was widely used in insulative products, floor and ceiling tiles, and mastics or sealants, through most of the last century, until health officials began to recognize the dangers. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limited the use of asbestos in American-made products to one percent by weight (or volume).
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a legacy disease which lies dormant for decades before causing enough symptoms to allow doctors to readily diagnose it. By that time, the prognosis is almost always poor because so many tissues and vital organs have been affected. Most patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma of long standing are given between a year and 18 months to live. Ten percent survive up to five years.
The settlement was reduced for prior settlements made with Willis, and his pretrial request for punitive damages was denied. The cost is levied solely at Bondex. CertainTeed and Georgia-Pacific were not ruled to be negligent, even though Bondex lawyers argued that, after decades, Willis could not be sure which manufacturer's products he had commonly used and what the labels might have said.
This is the same defense Bondex and Georgia-Pacific used in a similar trial in 2006, when they defended themselves in a Madison County courtroom by calling in metacognition and metamemory specialist Charles Weaver III, Ph.D, of Baylor University, who argued for the plaintiffs that people can't generally remember the brand name of a product used four decades previously, let alone what the product's warning label said.
The 2006 case revolved around 84-year-old Anita O'Connell, whose son Michael argued that Anita's asbestos-related disease resulted from her washing both her husband's and son's work clothes during 1966 to 1970 when the two men worked at the elder O'Connell's firm, Burbank, Illinois-based Bel-Aire Plastering.
According to Michael, the firm used joint compounds made by both Bondex and Georgia-Pacific, though he admits he also saw other manufacturer's products as well. His case was eventually damaged by the fact that, while drywall workers use joint compounds to seal and finish sheetrock wall edges, plasterers do not.
The lawyers in the most recent case also stated that Bondex's pipe compound never contained enough asbestos to cause harm, though in fact OSHA, the CDC, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no minimum, safe level of asbestos exposure; a day or a lifetime can trigger mesothelioma.

US Court of Appeals Rules on Minnesota Asbestos Standards

The Eighth Court of Appeals has issued a ruling on a case regarding the North Shore Mining Company and the standards for asbestos exposure levels in the state of Minnesota. The case centers on a measure known as the "control city standard". This standard calls for atmospheric fiber levels at the North Shore Mining facility in the town of Silver Bay to be no higher than those measured in "control city". St. Paul, the state capital, is the control city against which such measurements are taken in Minnesota.
The court's ruling dictates that, while the control city standard will still apply for any permit requirements for the facility, it will not be part of any injunction issued by the federal government. In short, the court ruled that state pollution standards are an issue for the states, not for federal authorities, while keeping the current standard intact.
The state agency responsible for environmental issues has called for testing the air quality around the state's taconite mines before issuing permits. The state also wants firms to use the best technology available for testing and potential remediation on such sites to keep the measures of airborne asbestos at or below the control city level. The control city standard came about due to a federal ruling made in 1974. Recently, that ruling has been dismissed, which prompted attorneys for North Shore to move that the control city standard be disregarded as a criterion for permits.
No definitive statements have been made to see if North Shore has either the legal grounds or the inclination to plead their case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Officials with both North Shore and their parent firm have stated on numerous occasions that the fibers freed from the raw ore in the process of making the taconite pellets are not related to asbestos and do not pose a menace to the health of the surrounding population.
Fibers similar to asbestos have been detected in the air around the north shore of Lake Superior for several decades. Another federal court ruling prohibited the company, then known as Reserve Mining, from dumping waste rock into the lake. Previous studies had shown that a high concentration of taconite fibers in water could lead to health problems. In response, the firm began dumping its waste rock into landfills.
An investigation into cancer diagnoses in the area has uncovered a remarkably high incidence rate of lung cancer, mesothelioma and other lung disorders in that portion of the state. Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine are conducting a study on miners in the Iron Range area to determine why a high percentage of workers in the area's taconite plants have developed these diseases.
Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the environmental group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, stated that he favored the court's ruling. Although he was disappointed that the grounds for the federal standard were dismissed, Mr. Laszweski was pleased that the effect of keeping the control city standard was still in place, even if the implementation was to be at the state level.

Residents Must Vacate North Dakota Apartment Building Due to Asbestos

Officials in Ward County, North Dakota have ordered that residents of the Emerson Apartment complex, in the town of Minot, vacate the property by the 15th of October and not allow for future tenants. The county now owns the building, which sits near the county courthouse, and is examining its options on how to deal with the site. Last week, members of the County Commission deliberated over the future of the building, which is contaminated with asbestos. After the residents have vacated the building, the commission will decide if the asbestos needs to be removed before or after the building's demolition, or if it would be feasible to remodel the building and remove the asbestos during the process.
According to Mr. Dana Larsen, a highway engineer for Ward County, a complete run of tests still needs to be conducted to determine the level and extent of asbestos use in the building's original construction materials. He said that the pipes in the building would need to be tested to ascertain the amount of asbestos insulation used and how the dangerous material was distributed throughout the structure. Mr. Larsen estimates that the asbestos remediation and cleanup would run from $125,000 to $150,000.
The commission agreed to allow Mr. Larsen to pursue grants that would alleviate some of the costs of asbestos removal at the site. However, they have not yet agreed as to what should become of the building and the site. County Commissioner John Fjeldahl moved that the building should be put up for sale, but no other members of the commission seconded the motion. Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg has stated that the county should attempt to remove all of the asbestos from the site before putting the building on the market. Commissioner Jack Nybakken proposed that the building stay open due to the city's current housing crunch. While the previous meeting resulted in a four-to-one vote in favor of demolition, the county has yet to set plans in motion for the building to come down.
Commission Chairman Bruce Christiansen mentioned that the building presents a serious environmental and fire hazard. He also expressed his fears about how the building had become a serious problem for the neighborhood and that the decisions regarding its fate would carry "great ramifications and consequences".
Bruce Walker, a representative with the property management firm First Minot Management, remarked to the commission that the city is suffering from a housing shortage and that availability for housing is at the lowest level in a quarter-century. He also told commissioners that the site does not require demolition and needs to be kept available for tenants who may not have anywhere else to go. According to Mr. Walker, the building is "safe now" and that the asbestos contamination is "not an issue". His firm has offered to keep the property open for renters for the next two years while the council decides on whether to sell the building to another party, keep it and remove the asbestos, or carry out their previous vote for demolition.

May Whitney Elementary in Lake Zurich Suffers Ongoing Asbestos Concerns

In August of 2007, storms and flooding in Lake Zurich, Illinois led to the closure of May Whitney Elementary School at 120 North Church St. after crews found evidence of post-storm asbestos and mold contaminating the building.
After considering the costs and the health threat represented by the contamination, Whitney school officials decided not merely to delay the start of school, but to move the 440 Whitney students next door for the entire school year.
This building, at 100 Church Street, is connected to Whitney school by a hallway. Constructed in 1929 as Lake Zurich High School and later repurposed as Middle School North, the building is fully as old and in need of repair as Whitney. Used for storage before Whitney students moved in, it allowed lengthy renovations to Whitney itself, but presented some of the same risks as post-flood Whitney.
Whitney has since reportedly been rendered safe, but tests conducted over the summer of 2008 showed the persistent presence of asbestos and lead, and skeptical parents - remembering the mold horror of a year earlier, when many of the students reported diffuse illnesses - remain uncertain if the building is truly safe for their children.
Arguments by Wheaton-based AR Remediation Corporation's spokeswoman, Kathleen Wahl, that the presence of a compound does not indicate a hazard, have failed to reassure, as have remarks by Community Unit School District 95 architectural consultant Fred Schuster, who insists that the building is in good, safe and sound condition, though Schuster has acknowledged the continuing presence of asbestos in mechanical rooms, floor tiles and some bricks.
A reported leak on August 28 of this year, between the repaired section of the roof and the old roof, was also said to pose no apparent threat, either in terms of asbestos or lead, and the problem was finally addressed on August 31 when it stopped raining.
But it is the presence of these persistent leaks - seven documented in the 2008-09 school year alone - that have parents concerned as they consider the effect of such leaks in areas that are inaccessible to asbestos inspection; that is, where district officials consider asbestos to be in effect "out of harm's way" even if damaged by water.
There are 22 such areas, according to the most recent inspection, most of them above ceilings or behind walls. According to District 95 Director of Facilities Richard Marzec, the potential for the aforementioned leaks to release asbestos into the air is "extremely small".
Though most experts agree asbestos isn't dangerous unless tampered with, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and the American Cancer Society all agree that there is no minimum safe level of asbestos exposure; a single incident or a lifetime can lead to mesothelioma, a particularly lethal form of cancer.
The twice-yearly inspections at Whitney are part of a plan mandated by the Illinois Department of Health; said plan based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) guidelines. These guidelines direct all U.S. schools to prepare a report of asbestos locations within the school; disseminate the report - and all planned or active asbestos remediation activities - to parents, teachers and school staff on a regular basis; hire licensed, qualified asbestos remediation experts to prepare plans, perform inspections and undertake remedial actions; and instruct maintenance staff on the recognition of, and appropriate handling of, asbestos.
While parents worry at the start of another Whitney Elementary School year, District 95 officials face the prospect of about $45 million in needed upgrades, a budget crisis made worse by falling property tax revenues in the wake of the housing bubble and widespread foreclosures, and a recession that is predicted to linger well into 2010.
As one district official has pointed out, the process of making district schools safe for students is a case of "Band-Aid fixes" rather than major repairs. The statement, though an accurate assessment of the district's budget capabilities, is nonetheless far from reassuring to parents who watch their young children go off to school in a nearly century-old building known to contain asbestos.

New Castle, Del. Church School Tagged for Improper Asbestos Removal

Century-old St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church has been charged for violating seven statutes instituted by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, or DNREC, regarding asbestos removal.
During the summer of 2009, asbestos was removed from St. Peter's parochial elementary school by volunteers rather than by a DNREC-mandated certified asbestos remediation and removal contractor.
The charges, all relating to unlawful removal of asbestos by uncertified workers, and disposal of hazardous solid waste in a manner not approved by DNREC, date to August 25.
The elementary school, located at 521 Harmony St., was built in 1960 to serve students from kindergarten through Grade 8 and currently offers a full curriculum, as well as a modern library, food service program, an extended care program for latchkey kids, and a gymnasium built in the 1950s. Current enrollment is 240, with about 25 students at each grade level. St. Peter's also supports a middle school for Grades 6 through 8, but a former high school was closed in 1970.
The illegal asbestos removal occurred on or about August 17, in the school's cafeteria and gymnasium, according to DNREC head of Environmental Crimes Unit William P. McDaniel. The complaint about the illegal asbestos removal wasn't received until about August 24, however. The complaint presumably from one of the staff arriving early in preparation for the 2009-2010 school year, and a DNREC inspection occurred the next day.
DNREC lodged seven individual charges against the church in a local Justice of the Peace Court. They are: three counts of asbestos removal by an uncertified worker; one count of non-DNREC-approved hazardous waste disposal; one count of failing to seal off a work area to prevent asbestos fibers from become airborne and dispersed; one count of leaving a visible residue of asbestos at the end of the removal; and one count of failing to maintain asbestos disposal records.
Asbestos isn't dangerous if undisturbed. Once removed and broken, however, as was the case with cafeteria and gymnasium floor tiles, the fibers can be ingested or inhaled and lead to such illnesses as asbestosis, lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma.
Asbestosis, a respiratory ailment, is usually the result of long-term asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, can be contracted during a single asbestos exposure, and - after lying dormant for decades - become so pervasive that most patients diagnosed with this form of cancer are seldom given more than a year or 18 months to live. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (or CDC), the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA), and the American Cancer Society all agree that there is no safe, minimum asbestos exposure level; an hour or a lifetime can trigger mesothelioma.
Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulations, adapted by various state environmental agencies, all schools in the United States - whether public, private or parochial - are required to create, maintain and disseminate an asbestos reporting, monitoring and mitigation plan, via a designated liaison, which insures that initial and timely asbestos inspections (and mitigations) are performed by a licensed individual or firm; that parents and staff are notified of both the plan (on a regular basis) and of asbestos "events"; and that maintenance personnel are trained in asbestos recognition and safe handling.
Apparently, the impetuous volunteers who undertook to remove the tiles were either not aware of said plan, or did not understand the ramifications. Parents who learned of the removal after the fact were reportedly quite upset that the job was allowed to take place without notification - in fact, without church official's knowledge. In fact, one parent, a supervisor for a union-approved asbestos remediation crew, said he was appalled at the lack of communication that allowed such a thing to happen, and at how poorly the removal was handled.
Nothing has been said about air quality tests to determine if asbestos contamination has occurred, but DNREC regulations will likely mandate them.

Asbestos Cleanup Underway at Minnesota Fire Site

In January of this year, a fire destroyed several businesses along Main Street in rural Austin, Minnesota. After nearly nine months of waiting to start the demolition process and reclaim the lots, workers were forced to stop on the very first day. The sites were scheduled for demolition this month, but the work has been halted due to the discovery of asbestos at several of the ruined buildings. As the contractors were winding down for their lunch break, they discovered asbestos insulation among the debris.
Austin City Public Works Director Jon Erichson said that such occurrences are somewhat common and that the demolition plans have accommodated for the potential of asbestos abatement and removal in their scheduling. He also said that, after the asbestos has been safely removed from the site, workers would excavate the existing soil, and then fill the new holes with layers of topsoil and a sand-like substance in order to insure that the area meets strict environmental standards. After that, workers will seed the new topsoil with grass seed to maintain the soil cohesion and integrity.
Ever since the fire, the legal arguments between the city and the owner of the Mi Tierra site, listed as Ms. Maria Leon, have bogged down any future plans to restore the area. The total costs to demolish the site are estimated to be well over $100,000, with almost $10,000 going towards asbestos remediation and removal. As part of a court settlement last June, Ms. Leon will be expected to cover a substantial portion of the cleanup costs. In return, the city has granted Ms. Leon and her attorneys the power to look over and approve any bids and costs for restoring the site as work progresses. Before the court's ruling, Ms. Leon had previously refused to clean up the site, in spite of several requests from city officials who considered the site a hazard and an eyesore.
One of the businesses that adjoined the Mi Tierra site was Marty's Hobbycraft. The owner, Ms. Marty Miland, was also unsure of the future of her business. Although workers have not yet discovered any asbestos contamination at her site, the water damage her shop incurred due to the firefighters' efforts has left her unable to re-open her business. The nearby cleanup efforts at Mi Tierra, combined with the high costs of restoring her own site, have left her unsure of her options.
The fire occurred on January 15 at the Mi Tierra Market. On what was the coldest day of the year, firefighters responded to several alarms at the former site of a Hispanic grocery store. A month later, after an investigation by police detectives and fire department specialists, city officials announced that they had classified the fire as arson. At this time, police have not yet named any suspects or announced any leads in the case. According to Mr. Erichson, the demolition project is still on schedule to be completed early next month at the outside, with hopes that it will wrap up by late September.

Oxford Researchers Develop Mesothelioma Test

Cancer researchers at Oxford University in England say that they have formulated a more responsive test to detect the presence of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that evolves after long periods of exposure to asbestos fibers. Patients who develop this disease generally have a life expectancy of one year or less. This new test measures a protein connected to the cancer in the lining around the lungs.
Dr Paul Beckett, a member of the British Thoracic Society and one of the leading experts in the UK on lung disease, stated that an easy test that can rule out a diagnosis of mesothelioma without the need for more aggressive processes such as surgery would be well received within the community of thoracic oncologists and cancer caregivers. Dr. Beckett also said that the Oxford test would create a more efficient means of diagnosing patients with lung disease, both for those with mesothelioma and those with other lung conditions, as well as eliminating the need for more invasive and dangerous testing methods.
The Oxford clinical investigators concentrated their efforts on means of recognizing mesothelioma as a causal agent behind the increase of liquid in the chest cavity encompassing the lungs. The fluid buildup, also called pleural effusion, has many root causes, some of which are benign. However, pleural effusion is also often linked to other forms of lung cancer. Nine out of ten patients diagnosed with mesothelioma also exhibit pleural effusion.
In most cases, doctors test the content of the pleural fluid for cancer cells to determine if mesothelioma is present. The researchers at Oxford claim that their test is more accurate and less invasive. In the Oxford test, scientists examined fluid samples from more than two hundred patients from a clinic that specializes in treating respiratory and other lung diseases. They examined the samples for the presence of the mesothelin, a protein often found in the lung fluid of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. They found that the levels of mesothelin in mesothelioma patients was more than five times that of patients with other forms of lung cancer and ten times that of patients with benign lung disorders.
One of the Oxford researchers, Dr. Helen Davies, said that this investigation indicates a process that doctors can use to promptly discover cases of mesothelioma at the beginning of a patient's course of treatment. She also said that, since the average life expectancy is one year, any attempt to lessen the amount of surgical procedures and intrusive testing a patient would need is critical to lower the death rate and cut down on hospital time.
Receiving an immediate diagnosis of mesothelioma favors both patients and doctors alike. Like all forms of cancer, early detection is often the key to receiving accurate and adequate treatment. According to Dr. Davies, this new test will allow doctors to make faster decisions on how to reduce the effects of the disease’s symptoms and recommend an effective treatment routine. The early diagnosis will also help improve the patient’s quality of life by beginning the process of educating them on the disease and beginning the treatment process as early as possible.
The results from the study will be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Friday, December 18, 2009

SDG&E 2000 Asbestos Removal Excavation Case Faces Another Obstacle

On April 31, the U.S. Attorney General's office re-indicted San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and two workers on charges that their 2000 pipe insulation removal violated Clean Air Act rules by exposing residents to potentially cancer-causing asbestos.
On August 31, four months into the new trial, U.S. Federal Judge Dana Sabraw - who threw out a previous conviction - ruled that prosecutors can't use key evidence acquired between 2000 and 2007 to further their contention that SDG&E and two workers acted in an unsafe manner during a 2000 excavation in Lemon Grove, a California city located about 17 miles north of the Mexican border.
Judge Sabraw's recent decision also engendered a postponement of the current trial, until October 9, as prosecutors decide how to proceed now that the essential portion of their evidence has been ruled inadmissible.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson had no comment on the ruling, as did attorneys for SDG&E. Kyle Rheubottom, one of two workers also facing charges, said he was pleased with the ruling, and his attorney, Michael Lipman, added that he felt the judge had made precisely the right decision.
The case began in 1997, when SDG&E found a buyer for its Encanto Gas Holder facility in Lemon Grove. This necessitated an asbestos survey, which was delivered in January of 1998, revealing the presence of regulated, asbestos-containing material on coatings applied to underground piping.
In June of 2000, SDG&E began soliciting bids from contractors for removal of piping. It also started the process itself, removing more than 40,000 feet of pipe wrapping without any of the paperwork required by state and federal agencies which regulate asbestos handling, removal and disposal. The move was presumably an effort to save time and/or money.
The removal came to the attention of officials in San Diego County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after Lemon Grove residents engaged in a whistleblower campaign against the utility's removal efforts. San Diego County filed a civil suit against the utility, and a federal indictment in January of 2006 instigated a lawsuit.
The case was based on 27 asbestos-containing samples from the 16-acre site where SDG&E, through its Encanto facility, maintained almost 10 miles of underground gas pipeline. At the time of the conviction, Granta Nakayama, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, noted that the conviction sent a clear message from the federal government that financial gain would not be allowed to come before any obligation to obey the law.
In the initial case, the jury found SDG&E, Rhuebottom (an employee working for SDG&E site contractor, IT Corporation) and David Williamson, SDG&E environmental specialist, all in violation of Clean Air Act standards. Each was convicted on one count for: failing to give adequate notice in advance of the asbestos removal, for failing to properly wet the asbestos during removal, for leaving the Encanto facility without properly insuring that the asbestos-containing material was put in a leak-proof container, and for falsely stating that an SDG&E employee was a certified asbestos consultant.
The conviction came down in July of 2007. A third worker, SDG&E employee Jacquelyn McHugh, was acquitted. The conviction resulted in fines, to SDG&E, of up to $2 million, and each of the workers faced up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Those convictions were dismissed by Federal Judge Sabraw, who said prosecutors used the wrong testing method to determine the amounts and quality of the asbestos found in the pipe insulations. Those tests, which showed asbestos levels between 37 percent and 42 percent, were later called into question by further tests that showed only 1.55 to 3.66 percent, and a final test by defense experts which showed asbestos levels below one percent, which is well under the 1989 EPA mandate.
This is the evidence that Judge Sabraw is now refusing to have admitted, a move that effectively kills the prosecution's case and makes Rheubottom's change of plea offering moot. According to Lipman, the prosecution will now have to decide whether to appeal the ruling or drop the case entirely.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used in insulating materials during most of the last century, can - when inhaled or ingested - cause mesothelioma, a particularly lethal cancer of the mesothelial lining of the lungs and abdomen. Occurring as either pleural mesothelioma (lungs), peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen), or pericardial mesothelioma (heart), though most commonly as the pleural form, the cancer commonly lies dormant for decades before producing symptoms definitive enough to permit diagnosis. By then, the prognosis is generally poor, with most victims given between a year and 18 months to live.
In October of 2008, the Lemon Grove City Council approved the former asbestos site for use as a 78-home complex called Citrus Heights. The only stipulation is that the developer, Carter Reese and Associates, will fund monitoring during construction, via an independent asbestos remediation contractor, to determine the presence of asbestos, especially airborne asbestos. Construction has yet to begin.

Volunteer Students Reduce Mesothelioma Risk by Cleaning Up Historic Train Station

It was great summer activity, and served a worthy purpose, but to the teens hired by Grosse Pointe billionaire Manuel "Matty" Maroun to clean up the abandoned Michigan Central Train Station (MCTS) this past summer, it also means exposure to toxic, and possibly, lethal asbestos fibers found in the debris and released into the air via sweeping.
After the old Michigan Central Depot burned, on December 26, 1913, a still incomplete but architecturally stunning 17-story building off Michigan Avenue was put into service instead. It thrived before and during WWII, but the gradual rise of automobiles, and their increasing affordability, dampened passenger train service until, by 1956, the MCTS was put up for sale.
No buyers came forward, and it was again offered for sale in 1963, but again no one appeared interested. In 1967, the main entrance and park were closed. In 1971, Amtrak took over America's passenger train service, and more than a million dollars was invested into renovating the MCTS. But the passenger train boom never materialized and, in 1984, the building was sold for a transportation center that never occurred. On January 5, 1988, the last train left the MCTS.
Eventually, Maroun bought the building, which remained open throughout much of the 1990s, though much of the interior plaster and brass artwork was gutted by thieves. In 2004, city officials agreed to purchase it for a new Detroit Police headquarters. The deal fell through, and the city of Detroit has since been plagued with such overwhelming financial catastrophe (more recently, the bankruptcy of the auto industry) that the police are likely to continue in their old headquarters for the foreseeable future.
The MCTS cleanup began on June 30 with a handful of teens and employees from Maroun-owned Detroit International Bridge Company (which owns the Ambassador Bridge under a company of the same name). At the behest of organizer John Mohyi, the first phase of cleanup was intended to be a new beginning for the aging landmark under a grassroots campaign called Save Michigan Central, with owner Maroun providing all the equipment the group requested. Maroun even gave a BBQ for youth volunteers.
The project has since turned into a PR and health disaster. The teens, all from the volunteer Detroit organization Summer In The City, founded in 2002 and aimed at recruiting high school and college youth to build character, relationships and a sense of belonging, face the potential of asbestos contamination that may impact the rest of their young lives.
Asbestos, a fibrous mineral widely used in construction (as an insulator, in plaster, and in floor and ceiling tiles) well into the middle of the last century, is a toxic substance that, when disturbed or broken and inhaled or ingested, can lead to a number of illnesses, including mesothelioma, or cancer of the mesothelial lining of the chest and abdomen.
Mesothelioma occurs in several distinct types (pleural, in the lungs; peritoneal, in the abdomen; and pericardial, the heart). The most common is pleural, which normally lies dormant for up to 50 years, producing few definitive symptoms under the tumor is well advanced. By that time, the prognosis is very poor, with most patients given between a year and 18 months to live. Some ten percent may survive up to five years, but only where the cancer is caught early and treated aggressively by radical single or combination therapies.
Thomas Vincent, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), noted that the DEQ was not able to take samples until the volunteers finished working, but that at least one sample, on duct work found in a dumpster, was positive for friable asbestos, the kind that can become airborne and present the greatest danger. Said material was clearly moved from inside to outside, according to Vincent.
The volunteers were not given respirators by Maroun, nor provided with protective clothing of any kind, and Dr. Michael Harbut, co-director of the National Center for Asbestos Cancer and a member of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, has called the lapse "absolutely dumb", adding that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. This position is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Cancer Society, who have previously noted that a day or a lifetime can trigger mesothelioma.
Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper has since argued that the company wasn't aware of the presence of asbestos, and did suspend all volunteer work once asbestos was discovered. However, the DEQ may impose fines and penalties once a full review is completed.
Dr. Harbut is recommending a profile of tests - including complete lung function testing, a physical, and a low-dose chest x-ray - to all volunteers, a protocol that should be followed up every five years for at least 15 years, with appropriate cancer surveillance for the rest of the volunteer's life. The tests are covered under most insurance plans. For those volunteers lacking medical insurance, Karmanos is offering entry into their CDC- and EPA-funded studies (and database) which offer blood tests for detecting lung cancer and mesothelioma early.

New York Declares September 26 Mesothelioma Awareness Day

New York Governor David Patterson has declared Saturday, September 26, Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, affects between 2500 and 3000 Americans every year.
The first Mesothelioma Awareness Day was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2003. With the amount of industrial pollutants generated by the area’s steel mills, coal mines and other plants and factories, and the attendant lung diseases that many of the workers in those facilities would later develop, a group approached the Pittsburgh City Council and requested that they recognize Mesothelioma Awareness Day to help let other workers know about the dangerous disease and raise funds to finance treatments and clinical trials for patients. The group chose September 26 to commemorate the wedding anniversary of a patient who died from mesothelioma and his widow, who brought the cause to their attention.
In New Jersey, State Senator Tom Kean has proposed that his state recognize Mesothelioma Awareness Day in an effort to make sure that lawmakers, cancer researchers and the general public remember patients who have contracted the disease. In Kentucky, the state House of Representatives issued a proclamation to recognize Mesothelioma Awareness Day and to honor former state legislator Ron Cyrus, who died from the disease.
MesotheliomaWeb offers free top quality information about this form of cancer. Our website covers the causes of the disease, symptoms, diagnostic procedures, and types of treatment doctors employ. Further, our co-ordinators are available to answer individual questions from patients and their families and we can help find specialists and hospitals.

New York State School Closes on Asbestos Discovery

In the small community of Schroon Lake, population about 1,800, located on the eastern edge of the Adirondack Park Preserve in the Adirondack Mountains, the students of the area’s single school found classes suspended Wednesday, September 23, when a building and renovation project uncovered asbestos behind a bathroom wall.
Officials at Schroon Lake Central School hope to bring the students back on Thursday. In the interim, The Essex County Health Department is standing by to make sure asbestos remediation in performed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, as well as the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) mandates.
The school, built in 1936 when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to support a flagging economy, is certainly old enough to contain asbestos, which was widely used in various construction materials like insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, sealants and mastics during most of the last century.
In 1989, when health officials began to recognize its dangers, the EPA limited the use of asbestos in domestic products to one percent or less by weight (or volume), thus greatly curtailing the legacy costs of asbestos illnesses, which are estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to total about $120 to $150 billion between 2005 and 2055.
Asbestos is comprised of long, very fine fibers which can, when inhaled or ingested, lead to a number of debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. The first of these is asbestosis, which is usually acquired through long exposure to asbestos. The other is mesothelioma, a cancer of the mesothelial lining inside the body that occurs as pleural mesothelioma (the lung), pericardial mesothelioma (the heart area) and peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach area.
Pleural mesothelioma is both the most common form of the disease, though all forms have a tendency to remain dormant for decades until the symptoms become so severe patients seek medical advice. Unfortunately, by that time the tumor has usually invaded so much vital tissue that no cure is possible, and most patients at this advanced stage are given about a year, or slightly more, to live.
Schroon Lake Central School serves about 275 students from kindergarten to 12th grade, with a surprisingly comprehensive academic program that can provide up to 22 transferable college credits. The school was recognized in 2008 by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s “outstanding schools”.
It appears to be equally as impressive in its understanding of, and compliance with, the EPA’s Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, or AHERA, which governs how schools across the nation identify and deal with asbestos. Workers who discovered the asbestos Monday immediately sealed off the area to prevent any potential fibers from becoming airborne and threatening the future health of students.
In addition, school officials have already scheduled air quality testing subsequent to the asbestos removal, which allows the school to have air quality reports back before the school is reopened as planned. If the reports are negative, the school will remain closed until the situation is rectified, according to Superintendent Mike Bonnewell.
The school is currently vested in a $14.7-million dual-purpose renovation, to upgrade the actual school building and to convert the former gymnasium into an auditorium. Most of the work so far has taken place on the exterior, but the removal of an interior wall revealed asbestos. The work is expected to be finished by the fall of 2010. Both phases are the result of a voter-approved bond measure in 2006 which allocated about $14.7 million for school upgrades and improvements.
The unscheduled closure will count as one of the district’s five allocated snow-emergency days, which are regulated by the New York State Legislature.

Mesothelioma News: Asbestos Removal Underway at Upstate New York High School

Ongoing construction efforts at John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix, New York, have uncovered asbestos insulation around the water pipes as well as in some of the floor and ceiling tiles. Scott Bulriss, a contractor with the company who is working on the building, stated that asbestos is commonly found in many structures built from the early 1900s up until 1990. The main building for Birdlebough High was constructed during the 1950s. Mr. Bulriss also mentioned that some asbestos was found at nearby Dillon Middle School, but will be removed from the buildings before classes resume for the fall semester.
Mr. Bulriss explained that construction firms and contractors take all the necessary precautions to remove asbestos before the potentially hazardous material could be exposed to schoolchildren. Although he stressed that short-term exposure is not necessarily harmful, he also said that, when workers run across a substance that could be asbestos, work on any project stops for several days or weeks while the material is sent away for testing.
Chuck Morse, who works with Mr. Bulriss at Campus CMG, stated that, in the event that workers do encounter such a substance, the company also tests the indoor air quality for potential contamination. Workers will also often construct an airtight seal around the area to insure that the possible contamination does not spread to other parts of the structure. From there, the company will call another firm that specializes in asbestos abatement and remediation to handle the safe removal of the substance from the building.
Mr. Morse said that the asbestos abatement process Birdlebough High had halted the other required construction work on the school for nearly two weeks. He stated that the abatement workers made sure that all of the asbestos had been removed from the building and that none of the harmful fibers had been released into the school's air circulation and ventilation systems and assured students, faculty and workers that the school was now safe.
The asbestos abatement was part of a $41 million project that included putting in new seats at the high school's auditorium, upgrading the school's media center and adding new school security devices. The project also covered renovating and adding a new two-story structure to Dillon Middle School as well as updating computer networks and fixing the heating and wiring systems at nearby Maroun Elementary. While the asbestos removal was a major project at Birdlebough High and some asbestos was found at Dillon Middle School, no reports of asbestos contamination were released in relation to Maroun Elementary.
One parent still expressed his concern over the general safety of the school environment during the construction. Dave Rodman, who has a daughter attending Birdlebough High, was worried about the amount of dust, dirt and other airborne contaminants left over from the construction efforts. Phoenix Schools Superintendent Rita Racette released a statement reiterating the fact that most portions of the school were ready for classes and that work on all the facilities in the district was progressing on schedule. She also stated that areas of the campus that are still undergoing renovation will be sealed off and that the school has relocated those functions, such as the media center, to areas that are still accessible to all students.

Indiana Mesothelioma Sufferers Seek Expanded Rights

Seventy-six year old Dorothy Kuykendall told a committee of the Indiana state legislature about how she had contracted mesothelioma by working in a local Glas-Col Apparatus Company where she had been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers. Mrs. Kuykendall testified before the committee in order to alter a state law that limits the amount of time that asbestos workers have to file claims against the companies responsible for the conditions under which they were exposed to asbestos.
Mrs. Kuykendall is part of a group that is challenging an Indiana Supreme Court ruling that limits the liability period for such firms to ten years. They say that the ruling does not take into account the fact that diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and other forms of lung cancer may not become apparent until several decades after exposure.
Mrs. Kuykendall and others who have testified stated that the limited time span allows companies to evade responsibility for exposing workers to dangerous substances such as asbestos. The group wants to change the law so that patients with such diseases can file legal actions up to two years after they receive their diagnoses. According to their testimony, Indiana is the only state in the Union that does not allow for such exemptions when it comes to diseases that do not appear within a few months or years after exposure.
Mesothelioma, a disease that both Mrs. Kuykendall and her husband suffer from, is an aggressive form of cancer that affects the fluid lining of the lungs. Dr. David Mares, a physician who specializes in respiratory and pulmonary disorders, stated that mesothelioma is almost always associated with asbestos exposure. He also said that symptoms may not occur for as much as sixty years after exposure and that patients with the disease often live less than two years after their initial diagnosis.
Mrs. Kuykendall stated that she worked at the Glas-Col Apparatus Company, a factory in her hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana, for several years. She stopped handling asbestos-laced materials as part of her job in 1975. However, she received a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma from her doctor last April. She also testified that her husband, thirteen years her senior, also contracted the disease as he worked at various construction sites in the 1960s and 1970s.
US Centers for Disease Control statistics told of up to seventy Indiana residents a year die from mesothelioma. Although the state legislature had previously carved out an exemption in 1989, a 2003 ruling from the state Supreme Court effectively neutralized the clause.
State legislators are confident that the exemption will pass when it comes up for a vote in the General Assembly sometime early next year. One lawmaker, Republican State Senator John Waterman, told a story of how he worked for a demolition firm in the 1960s. During his time on the job, he recalled being surrounded by a white cloud of asbestos and having the toxic fibers blanketing his work truck. He mentioned how many of his former co-workers at the site had died of lung cancer and other diseases and that he would lead the charge for the exemption when the Assembly reconvenes.

New Jersey Contractor Cited for Asbestos Violations

A construction crew working on asbestos-based sealing panels on the roof of a high school in Long Island, New York, lifted a cloud of white debris when workers neglected to damp down, and contain the potentially unsafe fibers so as to preclude them from becoming airborne, according to a report from a state worker safety inspector.
The New York State Department of Labor has issued five worker safety citations to a contracting firm based in New Jersey for failing to follow proper asbestos removal procedures as a function of a refurbishment job on the school building at Roosevelt High School. Thus far, the project has generated complaints from faculty and students of a downpour of harmful debris, which the school district claimed was Styrofoam being taken out of the roof sections.
The safety inspector issued the citations just days before the start of the academic year when he observed a "plume of white dust" emerging from the top of the building. The inspector also noted that at least three workers on the roof did not have the respirators and breathing filters that the state requires they wear during asbestos removal projects.
Karen Williamson, a spokesperson for the Department of Labor, said that another inspector visited the school last week. The second visit was a result of continued complaints from teachers and other staff members at the school about the possible hazards involved in the ongoing work. Ms. Williamson acknowledged the seriousness of the infractions, which also prompted her office to start a new investigation into the problems.
David Weiser, an assistant superintendent for the school district, responded that the "white dust" the inspector saw was not a highly dangerous cloud of asbestos fibers, but Styrofoam insulation left over from a previous contractor. He also said that the district conducted quality testing on the air circulating throughout the school, which resulted in finding no traces of asbestos. Mr. Weiser also mentioned that his office sent letters to concerned parents informing them of the results and ordered work crews to clean up any debris.
Superior Abatement, Inc., based in West Caldwell, New Jersey, carried out the asbestos removal portion of the project to renovate the fifty-four-year-old structure. The company started the project on September 3 and finished three weeks later. When the company's owner, Nicholas Petrovski, found out about the citations for safety infractions the day after work on the project started, he dismissed the crew who had worked on the roof during the inspection and hired a new crew a few days later.
The day that Mr. Petrovski hired the new asbestos abatement crew was also the day that classes at Roosevelt resumed for the new school year. School district officials and Mr. Petrovski both agreed that asbestos disposal work would only occur after the end of the school day in order to minimize the impact on students and teachers.
In a related incident, officials at a nearby elementary school admitted that they failed to check the credentials of another contracting firm that had been hired to remove asbestos. New York state law requires that asbestos cleanup firms carry a license from the state labor department; the firm hired to clean out asbestos-laced crawl spaces under the Rushmore Elementary School did not have such a license. Superintendent Michael Mahoney admitted to the error and sent letters to parents telling them that no asbestos contamination had been found in the school's airways or ventilation systems.

Morrison-Clark Facing Potential New Fines for Asbestos Flooring Removal

Morrison-Clark, a flooring company in South Barre, Vermont, is back in the spotlight again for its improper 2008 removal of asbestos-containing flooring prior to installing a new floor at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier.
The remodeling project was shut down and the school closed when an engineer with the Vermont Department of Health saw workers using the mechanical chippers to remove old floor tiles, in violation of Clean Air Act rules.
Demolition practices regarding asbestos-containing materials are regulated under NESHAP (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants). This regulation classifies many resilient flooring materials made during most of the last century as Category I materials, and stipulates very specific methods for their removal.
Asbestos in domestic materials manufacture was limited in 1989, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to one percent or less by weight (or volume), but flooring materials made up to 1970 can still contain considerable amounts of asbestos and fall under Category I stipulations.
A recent ruling by the EPA notes that Morrison-Clark failed to: provide advance written notice (typically 10 working days); wet the removed tiles to prevent asbestos fibers entering the air; handle and dispose of the asbestos-containing waste in the specified manner. These violations could result in fines of up to $32,500 per day.
Asbestos is implicated in a number of diseases, including asbestosis, lung and digestive system cancers, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is generally acquired only after long exposure, but cancers can result from a single exposure. In the case of mesothelioma, that single exposure can lead to a malignant tumor of the mesothelial lining (of the lungs, heart or abdomen) which, after three to five decades, finally invades so much vital tissue that the only prognosis is death within about a year. In about 10 percent of cases, earlier detection and aggressive treatments involving surgery and chemotherapy can lead to a life expectancy of up to five years.
The flooring company already faces a civil suit, filed by the Montpelier School District, which attempts to recoup costs incurred as a result of the company's reportedly improper procedures. The school district charges that it paid out an additional $50,300 to two asbestos remediation firms as a result of Morrison-Clark's work, and an estimated $38,000 in additional miscellaneous costs. These costs have not been explicated, but the fact that the flooring episode delayed school opening (from August 28 to Sept. 2) could account for some of the $38,000. Civil charges against the flooring firm include neglect, breach of contract and fraud. That suit is still pending.
Morrison Clark's lawyer, David Bond, says the company has consistently contested the allegations by both the school district and the Vermont Department of Health, and has requested a hearing. The company insists that its workers followed state regulations - including the use of the mechanical chipper, wetting asbestos and disposing of it appropriately - and that no asbestos contamination was ever discovered as a result of its activities. In addition, Bond asserts that the materials involved in the removal and cleanup aren't regulated by the EPA because of their low asbestos content.
The company has reportedly refused an offer by the EPA to settle, and Bond says he and the company have sufficient testimony to prove the tile removal did not violate any asbestos remediation standards.
If the EPA imposes the maximum penalty allowed - an estimated six-figure fine - Morrison-Clark could well be forced into bankruptcy. The only thing in the company's favor to date is the fact that the EPA agrees that no specific harm as a result of airborne asbestos was caused.

Moline, Illinois High School Closed for Asbestos

On October 9, Fulton High School in Moline, Illinois was closed.
The school would have been closed for Columbus Day anyway, but the unexpected two-day closure was the result of a staff member removing floor tiles from a section of the shop classroom's floor, in violation of every rule the U.S. Environmental Agency, or EPA, has outlined, either through AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) regulations or NESHAP (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) requirements relating to the Clean Air Act.
The first, AHERA, outlines a protocol for the safe management of asbestos-containing materials in U.S. schools, whether public, parochial or private. One facet of that protocol involves having a management plan in place, which is disseminated annually, or as needed, to keep school staff and parents apprised. The other mandates that school maintenance staff be trained in asbestos recognition. Another important feature demands that identified or potential asbestos-containing materials be removed by certified asbestos removal personnel only.
NESHAP identifies safe asbestos removal procedures, including wetting the material, disposing of it in appropriately marked containers, and making sure it reaches a landfill designated for hazardous waste. One of the most important features of NESHAP classifies materials by category, either Category I or Category II.
Resilient flooring is a Category I material. In fact, most resilient floors manufactured during the first 75 years of the last century contain some measure of asbestos. Only after 1989, when the EPA restricted asbestos in domestic material manufacture to one percent or less by volume, have resilient floors escaped being synonymous with asbestos.
The tile removal project also forced the suspension of the homecoming football game to Erie-Prophetstown, because players were unable to access the hallway that leads to the equipment room. The floor tiles were taken out of the building that way. As a result, Fulton High School is out of the playoffs, and a great many students are disappointed.
The only good news is that school district officials are working closely with the Illinois Department of Health to make sure no traces of asbestos linger to contaminate students and staff.
Ultrafine and virtually indestructible asbestos fibers can, when inhaled or ingested, lead to a number of diseases, most notably pleural mesothelioma. This particularly virulent cancer of the lining around the lungs typically lies dormant for from three to five decades, allowing the tumor to extensively invade vital tissues. By the time pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed, most patients are given less than 18 months to live.
Air quality tests conducted by a licensed asbestos contractor on Oct. 10 revealed no asbestos. The results were available late on Monday, Oct. 12, and students returned to school on Tuesday.
The shop classroom remains sealed off with plastic sheeting and plywood, and will not be used again until the tile is completely removed. The cost of hiring a licensed contractor to perform the removal is estimated at $10,000. School officials plan to complete the project either during the evening, when students and staff are absent, or over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
No mention has been made about disciplining the school employee who removed the tiles in the first place, but presumably school officials will want to make the school's AHERA plan available on a wider and timelier basis.

New York Asbestos Trial Postponed As Judge Considers Motions

In April of 2007, John F. Wood, 57, Mark Desnoyers, 52 (both of Plattsburgh, New York), and Curtis Collins, 50, of Willsboro, New York were accused of a number of illegal activities in central and upstate New York in connection with asbestos removal in public and private buildings and residences.
Desnoyers was charged with falsifying laboratory samples in order to convince clients that all asbestos had been properly removed from their premises - work that was performed under secret agreements with Wood and Collins, both owners of asbestos removal companies.
Wood's style of asbestos removal was described in an official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document as "directing his employees to perform ‘rip and run' asbestos removals that, rather than removing all asbestos, dispersed and left substantial quantities behind, significantly contaminating numerous businesses and homes". The EPA goes on to note that some of the asbestos removed via that process was buried on a Willsboro, New York farm, mandating Superfund intervention, and funds, to clean it up.
Asbestos, widely used in building products like insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, and mastics and caulks up until about 1970, when various health agencies began to recognize its dangers, is the leading cause of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial tissues around the heart (pericardium), abdomen (peritoneum) and/or lungs (pleura). The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in 75 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Pleural mesothelioma has a long dormancy period - up to five decades - during which symptoms are largely indistinguishable from allergies, immune system failures, cardiac conditions or respiratory diseases. Once diagnosed, however (usually via X-rays and blood tests), patients are commonly given between one year and 18 months to live, because the disease has invaded so many vital tissues. About 10 percent of sufferers, if diagnosed early and treated aggressively via surgery and dual chemotherapies, survive up to five years.
One week before the 2007 trial started, Wood (the owner of J&W Construction, Inc.) and Collins (the owner of Adirondack Asbestos) both pleaded guilty to violations of the Clean Air Act and mail fraud and agreed to testify against Desnoyers.
Wood, who started J&W Construction after being released from prison for unrelated felonies in 2005-06, was sentenced to four years in prison and $854,166 in fines by U.S. District Judge David Hurd on February 16 of this year. After his release, he will remain under supervision for another three years.
Collins was given two years and a fine of $114,900 for his part in the scheme, and also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Desnoyers, the former owner of Adirondack Environmental Associates, was convicted of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act, mail fraud, and false testimony to agents of the EPA.
Desnoyers has yet to be charged. On Sept. 13, after three adjournments, Desnoyers - who was supposed to have been sentenced in March - will again find himself waiting for his day in court because the judge suspended yet another trial to consider motions that might affect Desnoyer's ultimate sentence.
Legal experts suspect Desnoyers may be facing additional charges. A new trial date has not been set, but the original indictment in 2007 suggested that Desnoyers's sentencing might involve up to 25 years in jail and a fine of $1.25 million, plus restitution.