Florida (Mesothelioma News) – Residents of Marco Island in southwest Florida are demanding answers after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advised the city that it had violated six asbestos-related regulations while rebuilding a local roadway in 2006-potentially jeopardizing the health of residents and workers.
Asbestos-long linked to deadly medical conditions including lung cancer and mesothelioma, an almost always fatal cancer of the protective lining that covers many internal organs-is most hazardous when airborne. Asbestos fibers breathed into the lungs can trigger cancer and other severe diseases years after exposure.
The EPA’s Atlanta office, in a letter dated March 25, alleged violations including: a failure to thoroughly inspect the site for the presence of asbestos, a failure to remove all asbestos before any work that would disturb or break up the material, and a failure to dispose of any asbestos-containing waste as soon as practical.
The asbestos was present in cement pipe that had been removed as part of improvements to Marco Island’s Collier Boulevard, one of the community’s main thoroughfares. Quality Enterprises, the project’s main contractor, had been charged with rebuilding the roadway, relocating utilities, and other work. The EPA is accusing both the company and the city of the six violations.
A Marco Island City Council meeting in early April drew a large crowd, with a succession of residents stepping to the microphone to quiz the council and Marco City Manager Steven Thompson about the potential threat of asbestos. Many of their questions and comments focused on when the council first learned of the EPA’s ongoing investigation.
EPA officials also allege that Marco Island and Quality Enterprises failed to have a person on-site trained in asbestos regulations. All six of the EPA regulations at issue allow for fines of up to $37,500 per day of violation.
The Marco City episode highlights the difficulties local communities have had in properly-and safely-handling asbestos-containing material during public reconstruction projects. Although the health risks of asbestos exposure have long been known, the material is still present in many older buildings and infrastructure. Renovation and demolition projects pose a particular risk, because any disruption of the asbestos can release particles into the air.
Over the years, asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers assisting victims have filed a host of lawsuits-many of which resulted in large jury awards or settlements-contending that employers, building owners, government agencies, and contractors did not properly test for, or handle, asbestos-containing material, and as a result, put individuals at risk for asbestos-related disease.