In the long history of America’s military, the rare and deadly form of cancer known as malignant mesothelioma plays an outsized and tragic role. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a material that was widely used by the military in building its military bases, its ships, its vehicles and planes, and more. The Armed Forces ordered asbestos to be incorporated in countless applications specifically because it hoped that the material would provide its service men and women with additional, fortified protection against heat and flame. Unfortunately, the mineral was later revealed to be a highly toxic carcinogen, and one third of America’s mesothelioma victims are military veterans. Though the majority of the asbestos in place has been removed over the forty years since asbestos’ dangers were made known, what is still in place presents a constant danger. At one base in South Korea, the issue is managed by a special in-house team that has dedicated itself to asbestos removal and the protection of troops who are currently serving.
The mesothelioma protection that is practiced at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan represents a model for removal and encapsulation that is effective and safe. The public works asbestos removal team that has been assembled is made up of seven highly trained local individuals who come from a variety of occupational fields and who work together during the evenings and weekends to remove asbestos when it is identified. The material continues to be discovered during renovation, remodeling and demolition work on the base, which is being downsized but is still in use. The group is supported through its work, with all members receiving training and regular medical examinations and fitness tests to ensure that they are safe as well.
As the team works to prevent mesothelioma from striking the latest generation of military personnel, those who served previously and who were exposed prior to the discovery of asbestos’ dangers are being diagnosed with the disease on a regular basis. They are afforded certain benefits by the military, and are also able to file lawsuits against the asbestos companies that provided materials to the Armed Forces. Unlike the administrators at the Department of Defense, many of the executives in the asbestos field were well aware of the peril that they were exposing service men and women to, and victims have been successful in pursuing legal action against them. For information on how you can do the same, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.
Ever since the establishment of the asbestos removal team, members have been properly trained to remove asbestos in small- to medium-level abatement projects. The team strives to conduct the work in a safe and effective manner. In addition to its training, the team uses data collected from asbestos surveys to ensure that, if a project is likely to encounter asbestos, the team will be ready to identify and remove it in the early stages of DPW projects. The team’s effort has not gone unnoticed. Before the team’s formation, asbestos removal was executed through a local environmental contract. This outsourcing added time and cost to a project.
Since the in-house team began in 2001, USAG Yongsan has saved more than $3.2 million and reduced the asbestos-removal requirement from 30 to 60 days per project to less than a week, when compared to contracting out the work. A majority of the asbestos abatement projects are in Army Family housing, so the accelerated turnaround time lessens the impact and inconvenience to Army families. Cost savings and avoidance as well as accelerating projects allow the DPW to do more and spend funds on projects that improve the quality of life for Soldiers and Families in these resource-constrained times. Through this team’s dedicated efforts, USAG Yongsan is able to deliver timely and cost-effective asbestos abatement work, ultimately providing a safer environment and peace of mind for its community members.
James C. Hamilton III is director of public works at USAG Yongsan, and Scott Weber is chief of the garrison’s environmental division.