According to the local ABC affiliate KOHD, two companies were recently fined $15,000 in civil penalties by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for unlicensed asbestos abatement during the demolition of three mobile home units at Sun Country Mobile Home Park in Bend, Oregon. An asbestos survey conducted by the property owner at the site in April 2008 indicated that asbestos was present in paint located on the roofs of three of the units. In addition to the unlicensed asbestos abatement fines, Hoviss Build Group LLC and Williamette Builders Group LLC were also fined for failing to deposit the asbestos-containing waste materials at an approved DEQ disposal site.

Once the property owner knew that there was asbestos in the roof of the trailer units, it should have only hired a licensed asbestos abatement company to handle its removal, which Hoviss and Williamette are not. The Central Oregon Investors LLC, owners of the Sun Country Park, was also fined $16,651 for allowing unlicensed workers to perform an asbestos abatement project.

Exposure to airborne asbestos is a danger to both the workers that handled the demolition project and to nearby residents. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure once the material has been rendered “friable,” meaning the material is likely to cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause a number of respiratory illnesses and has been proven to cause terminal lung cancer known as mesothelioma.

The Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon requires that a licensed asbestos abatement contractor must remove any material containing more than 1% asbestos. A licensed asbestos abatement contractor will know how to properly remove and contain the materials to limit the risk of exposure. These licensed contractors are also equipped with the proper protective clothing and masks.

The fines issued by each state for improper handling of asbestos materials are important to the safety of employees and residents everywhere. The companies have 20 days to appeal.

Drawing attention to these events helps to raise overall asbestos awareness and awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure.