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The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has failed to follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federal regulations twice in the past year. The department did not have inspections nor did it report the asbestos found in two buildings prior to demolition.
The first $55,800 occurred in Eastern Idaho in Rigby, when state workers demolished the Jachetta office building at the corner of U.S. Highway 2 and state Highway 57 in November 2014. Jachetta formerly housed insurance and law offices and is surrounded by businesses, homes, and only one block from Priest River Junior High School. The workers did not have any advanced inspection nor did they report the correctly report the project to the EPA.
Not until after the project was complete, and a public compliant was made, did the ITD hire a consultant who discovered materials with 2-55% asbestos contained in the debris piles. In fact, the contractor removed 14 cubic yards (or two truckloads full) of the asbestos debris in December 2014.
“Asbestos is nothing to play around with,” said former state Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest River. “Several people in town were very concerned about that because anytime you do demolition you create a dust cloud. State agencies know what can and can’t be done. You can’t just pay fines in lieu of doing the proper demolition. Private sector can’t do that and ITD shouldn’t be doing that.”
The second violation happened in North Idaho in Priest River, which cost the state $51,986 with a similar situation concerning the demolition of another building, where ITD hired inmates at the Idaho Department of Correction’s St. Anthony Work Camp to abate 460 feet of flooring tiles at the ITD’s maintenance station.
As a result of the two incidents, ITD is creating a policy that will require every building to be inspected before demolition and a report to be made available on-site.
According to John Pavitt of the EPA, now a state engineer will first sign off to ensure an asbestos survey has been conducted. He claims it’s often cheaper to do an asbestos survey prior to demolition to identify problem materials for removal than to get rid of the entire debris post-demolition.
ITD spokesman Reed Hollinshead said, “We share the EPA’s concern regarding workers, supervisors, and the public at large in terms of the health risks posed by asbestos.”
Asbestos fibers occur in rocks and soil and have been used in building materials (i.e., insulations, floor tiles, roofing shingles, paper products, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings). Asbestos exposure can lead to asbestosis and the deadly mesothelioma cancer.
“Despite assurance from ITD that they will closely follow asbestos regulations and protect their workers, we are still issuing penalties on what should be straight-forward project management,” said Director of EPA’s Office of Enforcement, Ed Kowalski.
“We’re confident that our enforcement and compliance program will ultimately help them to realize the value of doing the right thing,” Kowalski added. He is confident the enforcement and compliance program will “ultimately help them to realize the value of doing the right thing.”
ITD has agreed to start out by paying $51,986 within 30 days.