It is not uncommon to hear stories of property owners mishandling asbestos, putting workers and the public at risk of exposure to this cancer-causing substance. But it is unusual and alarming when a licensed asbestos abatement firm is at fault.
That appears to be the case in Oregon where the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently fined Koos Environmental $4,800 for improper handling of asbestos during a removal project at an area school.
Koos Environmental was hired to remove asbestos from the Myrtle Point High School last summer. However, the DEQ found that the firm committed violations of state asbestos regulations during the project that put workers at risk of asbestos exposure.
For instance, Koos Environmental did not properly wet down material containing asbestos before removing it from the high school. The material workers removed was easily crumbled, said the DEQ in a news release, making the release of asbestos fibers much more likely without dampening the material to eliminate dust.
The DEQ also found that the firm did not use a negative pressure enclosure when removing asbestos pipe insulation. In such a system, the work area is sealed off and a reverse fan sucks air out of the enclosure into a filter. The goal is to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air, where they could endanger workers and nearby residents.
Koos Environmental has appealed the penalty and will meet this month with state officials to review the violations.
Finding asbestos in schools or other structures is not unusual because it was used in many building materials until the late 1970s. Asbestos was valued for its strength and ability to resist heat until studies documented its negative effect on human health.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive and fatal cancer. Other asbestos-related diseases are asbestosis and lung cancer.
Unfortunately, asbestos-containing materials are still present in millions of private and public buildings across the country. That’s why companies and individuals who perform asbestos abatement projects are required to follow specific procedures to keep workers and the public safe.