Under federal law, building owners are required to inspect and report the presence of any asbestos products before starting demolition.
In the past year, in two separate incidents, the Idaho Transportation Department did not inspect a building prior to demolition or report the planned demolition to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The first violation, which occurred in Eastern Idaho in Rigby, incurred a $55,800 penalty; the second violation, in North Idaho in Priest River, cost the state $51,986.
ITD said it is working on a policy to ensure that every building is inspected prior to demolition and that a copy of the inspection report is available on-site.
“We share the EPA’s concern regarding workers, supervisors and public at large in terms of the health risks posed by asbestos,” said spokesman Reed Hollinshead.
According to the EPA, state workers demolished a building in Priest River in November 2014 without an advance asbestos inspection and without properly reporting the project to the EPA. In response to a public complaint, ITD hired a consultant after it demolished the building. The consultant found materials with a range of 2 percent to 55 percent asbestos in the debris pile. ITD then hired a certified asbestos clean-up contractor who removed 14 cubic yards of contaminated debris.
In June 2014, the EPA settled another asbestos enforcement case with ITD that involved similar charges at a building in Rigby.
Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Office of Enforcement, expressed frustration with ITD’s continuing lack of diligence in responsible asbestos management.
“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 Kowalski in a news release. “We’re confident that our enforcement and compliance program will ultimately help them to realize the value of doing the right thing.”
Asbestos, fibers that occur in rocks and soil, is used in building materials such as insulation, floor tiles, roofing shingles, paper products, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets and coatings. The release of asbestos fibers can cause lung disease, lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The EPA has regulated asbestos since the 1970s to protect public health.