DOT faces fine over asbestos violation

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities faces nearly $5,000 in fines for violating asbestos-handling rules at the State Office Building in Juneau.

The department erred in allowing a contractor to enlarge a hole in the wall of the state historical library on the building's eighth floor, according to an investigation by the state Department of Labor.

DOTPF was also cited for not properly monitoring the air for asbestos during routine maintenance work at the building.

Mike Russell, assistant chief of Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement at the Department of Labor, said he didn't know whether any employees were exposed to excess levels of asbestos.

''Probably not,'' Russell said. ''They weren't even in the building when the work was going on.''

Asbestos, a fire-resistant insulating material once commonly used in buildings, has been linked with cancer.

DOTPF was cited once before, in 1997, when wind got into a space between a false ceiling above the state library and the real ceiling. Dust fell into the library, and tests showed it contained asbestos.

George McCurry, the state's buildings maintenance manager for the Southeast region, said the problem this time occurred in early April when a contractor cut a new hole for a fire hose cabinet. The contractor sawed through two drywall joints that had been taped using a compound that contained asbestos, McCurry said.

The state Department of Labor proposed a $5,000 penalty for that violation, Russell said. It has since been reduced to $2,250, McCurry said.

In response to another complaint, the Department of Labor looked into general DOTPF procedures when working in asbestos-containing areas on such tasks as changing light fixtures and air filters and working on wiring.

The Labor Department's investigation said DOTPF did not follow proper monitoring procedures to ensure employees were not exposed to excess levels of asbestos.

The state has proposed a $5,000 penalty for that violation as well, but Russell said it has been reduced to $2,500.

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