On January 13, 2020, the site offices of international construction contractor Balfour Beatty, on Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were raided to investigate possible violations of the Clean Air Act. Officials raided the construction company’s onsite Tinker Base offices in an effort to indulge information that may link the coverup of asbestos exposure to residents on the base upon the removal of dated asbestos flooring.
Allegations of possible asbestos exposure to base residents are currently being investigated by the United States Air Force and the Environmental Protection Agency. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, officials, confirmed that investigators from both agencies executed a search warrant at the Balfour Beatty Tinker Base onsite offices and seized evidence.
Asbestos Removal Project Investigated
The offices raided were initially the subject of unsafe environmental practices that were disregarded for lack of notification, qualification, and oversight with compliance. The combined agency’s raid stems from an investigation into matters involving this alleged incident only that may or may not have occurred.
Until the issue regarding the removal of asbestos is tried in court or settled with the government, the investigation is still open. Senator Jim Inhofe(R) of Oklahoma stated: “While this matter is still very much under investigation, should these or any of the other ongoing federal investigations be substantiated, Balfour Beatty and those who perpetrated any wrongdoing against our military families must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Construction Company Responds To Allegations
Representatives for Balfour Beatty stated that the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation is, in fact, directly related to the asbestos flooring removal project that was reported in September by company officials. During that month, Balfour Beatty reported to Air Force Base and State of Oklahoma officials that a general contractor performing work utilized an unlicensed subcontractor for asbestos flooring removal from 20 or more homes on the base.
In response, Balfour Beatty proclaimed: “When that event occurred, [Balfour Beatty] promptly and voluntarily reported the incident to the local Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. The company will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation,” in response to the asbestos removal incident at Tinker Air Force Base. Neither the general contractor, unlicensed subcontractor, or Balfour Beatty filed removal notifications for asbestos abatement or the appropriate paperwork for a job-specific Workplan outline for environmental compliance for the asbestos removal or disposal project.
Company Used The Same Contractor In The Past
In the past, the same contractor removed flooring in at least 13 other base homes. Construction company representatives claimed they worked and are still working with the Air Force, in regards to relocating base housing residents until an approved licensed abatement contractor is secured to commence the clean-up work.
Environmental Protection Agency officials declined to comment on the investigation because it is ongoing and referred all inquiries concerning the incident to the United States Attorney’s office in the Western District of Oklahoma. In turn, the United States Attorney’s office would not discuss any particular details about the investigation but stated that “the agencies engaged in conduct in accordance with a lawful court order.”
Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractor
Official required standards are set for outlining proper procedures and safety measures to be followed when removing asbestos from any area. Only a licensed abatement contractor can remove, clean, and dispose of the material from the contaminated area. The EPA has particular worksite guidelines and notifications in place for contractors and abatement companies to adhere to when they engage in asbestos removal.
Licensed abatement contractors are trained to effectively remove and dispose of asbestos with the least amount of risk during and after the area has been cleared. Using an unlicensed contractor is not only illegal, but it also undermines the safety and well-being of anyone who has to come into contact with the affected area before or after the asbestos is removed.
Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
The removal of asbestos flooring or any abatement detail is extremely dangerous. Once a contaminated area has been identified, an asbestos abatement crew will go in and remove the asbestos for disposal. If the removal is not properly performed, the area around the site can become harmful to anyone that comes into contact with airborne asbestos fibers.
When these fibers are inhaled, they settle in the lining of the abdomen or the lungs. Consistent exposure to asbestos fibers will enhance the risk of contracting lung cancer, lung disease, and mesothelioma. In particular, mesothelioma is caused exclusively by airborne asbestos exposure.
Without warning, these particles can be present within an area exposed due to recent demolition, dilapidation, or, as we have learned here, incompetent abatement practices.
No matter whether someone is living in public housing on a military base or residing in a civilian home, the right to be safe from harmful asbestos exposure is available for everyone. Individuals have the right to know if asbestos was found and adequately removed appropriately by licensed contractors.
Are You Suffering From Asbestos Exposure
Unfortunately, anyone can become exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos. The side effects can harm anyone who comes in contact with the airborne fibers and is not only reserved for individuals who have worked in high risk occupations. If you or a loved one feel like you may be suffering from past or present repercussions due to asbestos exposure, please contact an experienced asbestos attorney.