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Month: March 2014


Tile Removal Work at Kline’s Store Building Halted for Asbestos Inspection

Ceiling tile removal at the former Kline’s Dept. Store building located at South Barstow Street has been put on hold by the Health Department in Eau Claire City-County until an asbestos inspection is carried out.

Tate Zurbuchen, a department environmental health specialist, reached the building on Wednesday and discovered workers removing the ceiling tiles. Zurbuchen asked the workers to stop the task until the completion of an asbestos testing. Zurbuchen said the workers complied.

According to Zurbuchen, he talked with the owner of the building Ms. Lois Heymans. Heymans, a Winona (MN) resident, agreed to stop the tile removal until she would be able to arrange an inspection for asbestos.

According to Zurbuchen, he discussed with the property owner and she said she had made calls for getting the inspection done. The inspection should be conducted there shortly, Zurbuchen said.

One of the inspectors with the state Department of Natural Resources had contacted Lois Heymans on last Tuesday to ask to arrange an asbestos inspection. However, Heymans asked him to leave the building, reports indicate.

Heymans says she had conducted an asbestos abatement in the structure in year 1998. She said she had the paperwork for the work, but it didn’t apparently meet the requirements of the state. When Jeff Flatness, a DNR inspector showed up on Tuesday and asked to carry out an inspection, Ms. Heymans said she had shown him the previous asbestos abatement project’s paperwork but was unwilling to have Flatness inspect the structure.

Heymans says she just informed that she had to talk to her attorney before the inspector started walking around her building. She said she wasn’t in fact aware of what her legal rights were.

According to Heymans, she is willing to have the asbestos test done by the coming week. However, she believes the previous asbestos work was enough. She said she unsuccessfully tried to meet with Mr. Flatness 2 days prior to the auction at the property on Saturday.

According to Zurbuchen, the members of city council contacted him regarding the removal of asbestos taking place without any proper inspection.

Mark Davis, the statewide asbestos coordinator with the DNR, said the council members contacted the department regarding the lack of asbestos inspection at the property.

Exposure to asbestos could cause malignant mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer which generally starts showing symptoms after 20 to 40 years after the initial exposure.


Two Asbestos Plaintiffs File Lawsuits in St. Clair County

Two more lawsuits have been added recently to the asbestos docket of St. Clair County.

Nicole Lockett, a Tulsa (OK) resident, has filed an asbestos suit on 27th February in the circuit court, naming 21 businesses as defendants. The second one was filed by Betty Crutchfield, a Lake City (IL) resident. Crutchfield also filed the suit on 27th February. The suit names 41 corporations as defendants.

In her suit, Lockett accuses that the defendant businesses caused Randle Lockett Sr. – a recently deceased asbestos victim – to develop malignant mesothelioma by exposing him to various asbestos products all through his career. Randle Lockett Sr. is the father of the plaintiff. According to the suit, the father of Randle Locket Sr.’s worked in the U.S. military at various sites repairing and maintaining silos.

In her suit, Betty Crutchfield alleges that the defendant corporations caused late Donald Crutchfield Sr. to develop fatal lung cancer by exposing him to different asbestos products all through his employment.

The defendant companies knew or should’ve known regarding the dangerous features of asbestos, the plaintiffs allege. However, they failed to provide enough caution and care for the safety of workers such as Crutchfield and Lockett, the suits allege.

Because of their devastating asbestos-linked ailments, Donald Crutchfield and Rand Lockett became physically disabled and disfigured. Additionally, they incurred substantial medical expenses and suffered immense physical pain, mental agony and emotional anguish, according to the complaints. Their conditions prevented them from pursuing the normal course of employments and thus they lost large amounts of money which would’ve accrued to them otherwise, the suits claim. Both the plaintiffs died from their asbestos-related conditions, according to the plaintiffs.

Regular exposure to asbestos fibers could result in devastating conditions such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

In her suit, Ms. Lockett is asking for a judgement of in excess of $50000 and compensatory damages in excess of $200000. She is also seeking punitive amounts for punishing the defendant businesses for their wrongdoings. Additionally, Lockett is asking for other relief to which she could be entitled.

In her lawsuit, Betty Crutchfield is asking for a judgement of in excess of $300000 and compensatory damages of in excess of $100000. In addition, she is asking for punitive damages in an amount enough to punish the companies for their illegal conduct. She is also seeking other relief that the court deems appropriate.


MassDEP Fines Asbestos Violators

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts State Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has issued a fine of $27379 against Sallie Swartz and Alan Bernhardt for allegedly violating asbestos regulations. The violations were found during an inspection conducted by the agency at a rental residential property on Main St. in Williamsburg (MA).

The inspection was conducted by the MassDEP in 2012 December after it received a complaint from the tenants. The agency confirmed that Ms. Swartz and Mr. Bernhardt had retained someone to remove pipe insulation containing asbestos without filing the required notification and without adopting the right procedures for asbestos handling as well as disposal. Bernhardt disposed of the asbestos containing materials at Williamsburg Transfer Station in Williamsburg.

However, the property owners cooperated with the DEP and engaged a state-licensed asbestos abatement contractor for properly cleaning up the site.

In a settlement with the MassDEP, Swartz and Bernhardt has agreed to pay a fine of $9000. The remaining $18379 was suspended by the MassDEP on condition that Swartz and Bernhardt will comply with the order’s terms and would abide by all the state regulations concerning asbestos handling for a period of 12 months.

The asbestos regulations of the MassDEP is intended to protect the environment and the public health by putting safe asbestos handling procedures into practice for preventing the emission of toxic asbestos fibres from products containing asbestos, said MassDEP’s Michael Gorski. Gorski is the director of Western Regional Office at Springfield in Massachusetts. He said property owners must be aware of such requirements. It’s vital for their own protection as well as the safety of their tenants, Gorski said.

Property owners and contractors who have questions regarding materials containing asbestos; requirements of notification; proper handling, packaging, removal, storage, transportation and disposal procedures of asbestos materials; or state asbestos regulations can contact the nearby regional office of the MassDEP for assistance.

Asbestos is the name given to a group of various minerals which occur in the environment naturally. Asbestos is made up of thin, long fibres. These fibres are very robust and highly resistant against heat, fire, electricity and chemicals. Due to such properties, asbestos had been widely used in a variety of products. Until the 1980s, asbestos was an inevitable ingredient in many construction materials, fabrics, and friction products. Danger is when tiny asbestos fibres suspended in the air are breathed in. Asbestos inhalation could result in deadly ailments including cancer.


DEP Fines Couple for Asbestos Violations

Williamsburg, MA – The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a fine of $9000 against Sallie Swartz and Alan Bernhardt for allegedly violating the regulations concerning asbestos removal during a project conducted at a rental property located at 32 Main St., according to officials.

The property was inspected by DEP officials in 2012 December after they received several complaints from the tenants. The inspectors found that Swartz and Bernhardt had hired somebody to eliminate asbestos insulation from pipes without using the right and legal procedures for the removal and disposal. Additionally, they failed to file the mandatory paperwork with the state DEP, officials say.

Asbestos substances removed from that property were then disposed of illegally at the town transfer station. According to officials, disposal was done by Bernhardt.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring silicate mineral, is a known human carcinogen. Exposure to the material is linked to contraction of cancers such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Inhalation of asbestos fibers could also result in severe respiratory disorders and devastating conditions such as pleural plaques and asbestosis.

Since the investigation, Swartz and Bernhardt have been cooperating with the Department of Environmental Protection, officials said. The couple hired an authorized contractor for cleaning up the property properly, according to officials.

The original fine issued against Swartz and Bernhardt was $23379. However, the DEP waived $18379 on condition that the couple would abide by the order terms and comply with the state asbestos regulations in the future.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral occurring in the nature. There different types of asbestos. The common types are white asbestos (Chrysotile) and brown asbestos (Amosite). Asbestos fibres are extremely small and are not visible to the naked eye. It is in fact 700 times smaller than human hair. These minute fibers are very dangerous because they are carcinogenic.

Asbestos has many useful properties. It is an excellent fire- heat- electricity- and corrosion-resistant, and therefore is a very good insulator. It is very cheap as well. For these reasons, despite being a deadly carcinogen, asbestos was added to numerous construction materials and other industrial products.

Regular exposure to asbestos often results in diseases such as asbestosis (a dangerous, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory condition), mesothelioma (a rare type of cancer which most often affects the protective lining of the lungs, chest and abdomen) and lung cancer. Even secondhand exposure to asbestos (such as exposure through work clothes) could result in any of these devastating conditions.


Madison Early Childhood Centre to Remove Asbestos

Elmhurst, IL – The lowest bid was approved by the Dist. 205 Education Board for an asbestos removal project at the Madison Early Childhood Centre on Tuesday.

Asbestos, a known cancer-causing mineral, is now unexposed under the floor tiles and not a health risk. However, those tiles have to be replaced for finishing other projects, which will bring a sanitary system, hot water and water to a segment of the structure that does not have such amenities right now.

Frank Schuh, the district’s director of buildings & grounds, said the tiles would be heat removed instead of tearing up. He said it would help prevent asbestos particles to become airborne. Airborne asbestos particles are extremely dangerous because they could be inhaled easily and cause terminal diseases including cancer.

Additionally, construction has been planned for the start of the summer vacation as the building would remain closed then.

According to Schuh, the tile removing project is far less intense when compare to the asbestos removal in other areas such as pipe wrap or boilers.

Lemont (IL)-based Universal Asbestos Removal Incorporated was the lowest eligible bidder. There were totally 6 bids and Universal’s $36000 bid was the lowest one.

Schuh said the project would be a very small one in the big world of asbestos projects.

Asbestos is a group of minerals occurring in the nature which are highly resistant against corrosion and heat. This mineral has been used in numerous products, such as piping insulation, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, construction products, automobile clutches, automobile brakes etc. Asbestos includes the mineral fibres amosite, chrysotile, tremolite, actinolite, crocidolite, and all these types could be treated and altered chemically. Heavy exposure to the mineral is likely in the building industry and ship repairing, especially at the time of removal of materials containing asbestos for repairs, demolition or renovation. Workers may also be exposed to the dangerous mineral during the production of various asbestos-containing products, such as insulation, friction products, textiles, and other construction materials. Those who work with automobile clutches and brakes also are likely to be exposed to the material.

Asbestos has been recognized as a human health hazard. Asbestos fibres are extremely small can’t be seen with the naked eye. However, they could cause severe respiratory disorders and diseases including cancer. Now the use of asbestos has been highly regulated by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).


Former Employees Sue Union Carbide and Other Companies over Asbestos-related Cancer

Chicago, Illinois – A man suffering from malignant mesothelioma has filed a lawsuit over allegations that his illness was caused by his extensive exposure to a number of asbestos-containing products.

The lawsuit was filed by Daniel Borza III on 29th January in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The suit names Union Carbide Corporation and A W Chesterton Company, along with dozens of other corporations, as defendants.

According to the suit, Borza had been employed in different capacities, such as home remodeler and electrician between 1959 and 1979. During his employment, Borza was regularly exposed to the asbestos products made, marketed, distributed, sold and used by the defendant corporations, according to the suit.

According to Borza, he was diagnosed on 17th October with malignant mesothelioma.

Borza says he wasn’t aware of the hazardous nature of the products that he was regularly working with and around. Despite being aware of all the potential risks associated with asbestos products, the defendant companies failed to warn workers including Borza, the suit says. Borza and other workers were never provided with any protective gear while working close to asbestos and asbestos products, the plaintiff alleges.

Michael Egan, an attorney with law firm Cooney and Conway, will represent the plaintiff in this case.

In another case, a man has filed a lawsuit over allegations that he developed fatal lung cancer because of his occupational asbestos exposure.

Pamela Balmes is suing a number of companies individually and as the guardian of the estate of Norman Shields. The suit names Crane Company, A W Chesterton Company, and Union Carbide Corporation, in addition to a number of other businesses, as defendants. According to the suit, the defendants manufactured, distributed, supplied, sold, installed or used the asbestos-containing products which caused the plaintiff to develop the disastrous condition. The suit was filed on 25th February in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago, IL.

According to the lawsuit, Shields was continuously exposed to cancer-causing asbestos while working as a laborer, maintenance worker and in several other capacities, between 1952 and 1981. According to Balmes, Shields was diagnosed on 22nd April, 2012 with lung cancer. He says the disease was a direct and proximate result of his occupational exposure to the dangerous mineral.

Balmes is asking for damages in an amount exceeding the jurisdictional minimum. He is also seeking court costs.


Tucson City Receives $5.5M Windfall from Asbestos Lawsuit

Tucson, Arizona – A settlement agreement with a corporation which made construction products containing asbestos that were used in some buildings in the city will pump up $5.5 million to the coffers of Tucson.

The city hopes to get the sum as the share of the WR Grace federal bankruptcy settlement.

In 2001, W R Grace had declared bankruptcy after numerous lawsuits were filed against it in connection with the injuries and deaths caused by its asbestos-containing products.

In 2002, the city decided to hire outside counsel for representing it all through the litigation. However, the process prolonged for several years.

On the whole, the settlement amount of the city was $7.7 million. However, $2.2 million out of this went toward the fees of outside counsel.

Most of the asbestos-containing products were used in fireproof structures. They were used in such areas where it wouldn’t generally be exposed inside those buildings, according to Mike Rankin, the City Attorney.

Some city buildings which contain or had contained asbestos products of W R Grace include the: Leo Rich Theater; Tucson Convention Centre meeting rooms; City Hall; Tucson Convention Centre Music Hall; former City Hall Annex; and Transportation Contract Service Centre.

Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral found in the nature. It was extensively used in almost all commercial and public buildings built prior to the 1980s in the U.S. As an excellent fireproofing substance, asbestos was heavily added to asphalt, concrete, pipes, vinyl materials in the roof shingles, siding, floor tiles, wall board, adhesives and joint compounds.

As the material has good resistance against heat, asbestos was also used in thermal insulation. Despite being a deadly carcinogen, asbestos can also be found in acoustical plaster. It was also used as in a mixture which is sprayed on the walls and ceilings. All such wonderful features, along with its low cost, made asbestos a ‘miracle’ substance of the construction industry.

As long as remains stable, asbestos is not considered a health threat. Problem arises when the material is deteriorated, broken, damaged or disturbed (which can happen during any renovation or demolition activities or several other instances). When asbestos is disturbed, it would release microscopic fibers into the environment. These invisible fibers are easily inhalable. Studies have found that inhalation of asbestos fibers could result in fatal conditions such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.


Man Pleads Guilty to Asbestos Violations

Bay City, Michigan – One of the 3 men who are facing federal felony charges in connection with illegal asbestos removal from the Bay City Academy in Michigan has reached a plea agreement, instead of going before a jury.

On 11th February, Rodolfo Rodriguez appeared in the United States Dist. Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in downtown Bay City. Rodriguez admitted guilty to a count of perjury prior to a federal grand jury. Legal experts say the charge carries a maximum punishment of imprisonment for 5 years, in addition to a penalty of $250000.

In exchange, the prosecution has agreed to dismiss another charge against Rodriguez. He won’t face the count of tampering with victims, informants, or witnesses any longer.

According to the plea deal, in 2010 April, Steven Ingersoll bought the church building at 400 North Madison Avenue with a plan to transform it into a school for the Bay City Academy. Steven Ingersoll hired Roy Bradley Sr. for performing the renovation.

Bradley’s workers illegally and improperly removed some materials containing asbestos at Bradley’s direction and the foreman Mr. Gerald Essex (known as ‘Bark’), the state records say. Rodriguez was an employee of Bradley. He was a carpenter and was familiar with removal of asbestos, documents indicate.

Essex and Bradley both were charged with 4 counts of improperly handling and distributing asbestos. They could receive up to 5 years in federal prison for this felony, in addition to a fine of $250000. Their indictment states that they were the individuals operating, managing and overseeing a renovation and demolition activity that involves nearly 260 linear ft and 160 sq. ft. of regulated ACM (Asbestos-Containing Materials) at the church. They intentionally failed to cleanup and cause the abatement of all the regulated ACM from the facility in line with the NESHAP, according to the indictments.

Bradley was the owner of Lasting Impressions when the renovations took place.

The charter school was founded by Ingersoll, an entrepreneur and optometrist, for students from nursery school through 9th grade. The school was opened in 2011 September and has 3 campuses in Bay City.

The sentencing guidelines of Rodriguez range from 15-21 months. In addition, he is subject to probation for 3 years after imprisonment and fines of up to $30000, court documents say.

United States Dist. Judge Hon. Thomas Ludington will sentence Mr. Rodriguez on 5th June at 2:30 PM.

The trials of Bradley and Essex are set to start on 15th April.