Montana has stringent laws regarding the handling and disposal of asbestos, and for good reason. Asbestos dust is highly toxic and causes several deadly diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Because of its danger, any removal of asbestos must be handled extremely carefully and disposed of properly.
However, according to a new lawsuit against the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana has failed to properly enforce existing laws regarding the removal and disposal of asbestos.
A contractor from Butte, Montana filed a petition with the court alleging that the agency fails to inspect waste for asbestos at landfills, leading to asbestos dust regularly being dumped in open air. This puts workers, drivers and anyone nearby at risk of inhaling asbestos dust. The lawsuit also alleges that many demolitions are improperly supervised and proper procedures for removing asbestos are ignored.
DEQ claims building owners and landfills are responsible
The Department of Environmental Quality, in response to the lawsuit, has not denied that asbestos is being dumped unsafely into landfills. However, the agency argues that the onus is on building owners and landfills to properly dispose of asbestos under state law.
The lawsuit may hinge on whether the DEQ is legally obligated under Montana state law to provide enforcement of asbestos disposal.
Meanwhile, while the lawsuit continues, building owners and landfills may be able to continue dumping asbestos in an unsafe and illegal manner, exposing workers and others to the highly toxic mineral fiber.
Regardless of who is responsible under state law, building owners, landfills and everyone associated with asbestos removal must follow proper safety precautions. Failing to do so puts many people at risk for mesothelioma and lung cancer.