Bend, Oregon – A Bend asbestos abatement company’s owner said on Monday that he will appeal the $4500 penalty issued by the state Environmental Quality Department alleging illegal work during a Redmond High School project early this year. He is disputing the charges and threatening that he will file a suit over any business loss.
DEQ had announced on Monday about the fines issued against Oregon-based Alpine Abatement Associates for violation of safe work practices, though there wasn’t any direct threat to the environmental and human health. According to the agency, the company did not properly wet the ceiling insulation which contained asbestos material during an abatement project on 13th February at the Redmond H.S.
If asbestos is not wetted properly at the time of removal, its fibers are likely to be released into the surroundings in containment area, DEQ said. The removal of asbestos was carried out in an entirely contained and enclosed area, according to the agency. Therefore, not faculty or students were exposed to the deadly fibers, DEQ said.
Asbestos fibres can cause serious respiratory problems and deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Anyway, in this case, little risk was there as the work area had been sealed off and the work was done in an inaccessible containment area, DEQ said.
Jack Billings, the owner of the company, says he has been in this business for almost 25 years. He says this is just the 2nd violation cited by the DEQ. He said OSHA has never cited his company for any violations.
Mr. Billings says the DEQ was totally wrong in the case. He said he has consulted with a lawyer to challenge the citations. He said there were no ceiling insulation in the high school building and the workers were actually removing fireproofing which contained asbestos. He said the DEQ does not have any evidence to prove their allegations. They noticed some substance there which seemed to be dry, Billings says, and a few bags which appeared as not having sufficient water. However, all that was in a containment area and all of them can be wetted as they are taken out, he said.
The inspection was conducted by Frank Messina, a specialist of air quality in the DEQ office in Bend. He still maintains that asbestos had not been properly wetted in order to prevent the fibres from being airborne, although air samples didn’t show anything.