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City engineer accuses San Diego of ignoring asbestos warnings

A civil engineer in San Diego is one of two people who filed a whistleblower complaint against the city. He claims that the city ignored his warnings about asbestos contamination and fire hazards in a city-owned high rise. He also claims that the city jeopardized the safety of city workers by knowingly putting an unqualified person in charge of renovations of that building.

Renovations gone wrong

The city acquired the high rise at 101 Ash Street in January 2017 after securing a 20-year lease-to-own agreement. Renovations on the building began August 2018, and by February 2019, the city was allegedly aware of the asbestos contamination.

In August 2019, the building was mistakenly designated free of asbestos. Shortly after, the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (SDAPCD) noted high levels of asbestos. SDAPCD continued to document high asbestos levels in the following four months.

Despite these multiple instances of documented asbestos violations, the city moved over 1,000 city employees into the building in December. This allegedly occurred before the city corrected all the violations. SDAPCD also documented a violation roughly two weeks after the workers moved into the building, which resulted in a voluntary evacuation of the city employees.

What risks may the workers face?

Office work usually does not involve a high risk of asbestos exposure. However, asbestos was used in many different types of building materials over the years, including materials used to build office buildings. Those materials can become damaged through active disturbances, like renovation work.

Once asbestos fibers enter someone's body, they usually do not leave. They can become lodged in body tissues causing irritation, which can eventually lead to mesothelioma or other serious illnesses.

The legal outcomes for the situation in San Diego are yet to be determined. However, workers who become ill because of an employer's negligence often have options.

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