Fitchburg, Massachusetts - Though strict guidelines for asbestos use in the U.S. have been in place since the late 1970s, millions of structures in the country still contain building products that were manufactured using asbestos. America’s power plants, where machinery and other equipment operate at high temperatures, are among the jobsites where asbestos is still most often found. So when a Haverhill, Mass.-based contractor was hired to perform work at a power plant in Fitchburg, they should have been ready to face the inevitable.
However, according to an article in the Sentinel and Enterprise, Absolute Environmental Contractors, licensed by the state Department of Labor Standards to be an asbestos contractor, didn’t follow proper procedures while working at Fitchburg Gas and Electric and the company is now being fined for asbestos violations.
At the Fitchburg site last summer, inspectors from the state Department of Environmental Protection observed workers from Absolute Environmental Contractors failing to engage in proper removal and handling of asbestos at the power plant. In particular, investigators reported that employees of the company had removed asbestos-insulated pipes without first wetting them and then placed them in an open-top roll-off container. According to law, they should have been disposed of in a sealed, leak proof container, which should have then been labeled as hazardous.
Due to shoddy workmanship, anyone working in the area where pipes were being removed could have inhaled airborne asbestos fibers released during the operations. Asbestos inhalation can result in a host of lung-related diseases, including aggressive mesothelioma cancer, which is difficult to diagnose and carries a grim prognosis.
“Licensed asbestos contractors are most certainly aware of the required asbestos removal procedures and must strictly follow all work practices prescribed by the MassDEP asbestos regulations,” said Lee Dillard Adams, director of the DEP Central Regional Office in Worcester. “The cost of noncompliance includes payment of penalties and escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”