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EPA investigates Illinois building demolition

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun an investigation into possible violations of state asbestos regulations in the demolition of a power building in Peru, Illinois, about 200 miles north of Madison County. The demolition and asbestos removal must now be halted until the investigation is complete.

The demolition began when the city of Peru hired a contractor to demolish the 120-year-old power plant. Under the contract, the contractor took deed of the building at no cost, with the understanding that it would demolish the building, fund any asbestos removal, and give the land back to the city once demolition was complete. The contractor, in turn, hired a Chicago company to complete the asbestos removal.

However, the EPA halted the demolition, and ordered the contractor to hire a licensed asbestos designer to create a design cleanup plan for the demolition of the coal-fired power plant. Prior to the investigation, demolition and asbestos removal was occurring side by side, and areas containing asbestos were simply walled off with plastic sheets inside the building. Clearly, this created a hazard for employees doing the demolition, which is why the EPA stepped in. Now, asbestos removal must be completed before demolition can resume.

The nature of asbestos makes them dangerous to workers who come in any contact with them. Asbestos fibers are hundreds of times thinner than human hair, and they separate from one another easily. Therefore, they become airborne easily, and can be readily inhaled into workers' lungs. Contractor employees who feel that they were not sufficiently protected from asbestos exposure should contact a mesothelioma attorney to discuss their potential legal avenues.

Source: News Tribune, "EPA investigating asbestos issues with Peru powerhouse demolition," Jeff Dankert, July 13, 2011

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