A salvage contract at a power production facility in Comstock Township, Michigan, led to a massive release of asbestos into the environment. Investigators reported that the amount of asbestos released may have been the most in Michigan since 1971. Three people plead guilty to violations of the Clean Air Act last week for their roles in the incident. The three could be sentenced to as much as five years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Proper cleanup and disposal of asbestos requires particular care. Salvaging a site with asbestos takes more time and money than it would if the hazardous material were not present. For that reason, it is not uncommon for individuals and businesses to cut corners and try to maximize their profits by ignoring the safety requirements of asbestos removal. In this case, two men responsible for the actual salvage failed to wet the asbestos material as it was being stripped and removed from the power facility. Wetting asbestos reduces the number of particles released into the air. Asbestos particulates, when inhaled, can lead to asbestosis and eventually mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers.
The improper procedures used in removing the asbestos caused the site to become contaminated. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was forced to declare the facility a superfund site. The subsequent cleanup operation cost the EPA $1 million. The three responsible parties agreed to pay restitution to cover that cost as part of their plea agreements.
Long after asbestos was discovered to be dangerous, it continues to cause problems. Greed and carelessness cause innocent workers to be exposed to the harmful material, sometimes with devastating consequences.
Source: MLive Media Group, “Michigan’s largest asbestos release in at least 40 years leads to three convictions in federal case,” by Rex Hall Jr., 11 February 2015