Airport facing fines for improper asbestos removal

Published On: Sep 13 2011 03:41:46 PM PDT   Updated On: Apr 29 2010 09:46:10 AM PDT

An anonymous tip to the Spokane Regional Clear Air Agency has led to a potential fine against the Spokane International Airport for exposing its employees to asbestos for at least 10 days during a renovation project.

Workers were exposed to asbestos when airport officials decided to remove a small portion of carpet in the parking garage's administration building last spring. When employees pulled up the carpet, asbestos laden tiles and glue came with it.

?Prior to any renovation activity for both residential and commercial an asbestos survey needs to be conducted to determine if asbestos is present,? Lisa Woodard with the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency said.

Air quality officials say when the airport skipped the permitting and survey process Spokane International Airport violated about a half dozen health and safety rules. About 120 square feet of asbestos material that should have gone to a special landfill was treated as regular garbage instead and workers exposed to a known carcinogen.

?We should be concerned, expose to asbestos can lead to lung cancers, mesothelioma,? Woodard said.

Airport officials knew about the asbestos exposure for at least 10 days before one of their employees picked up the phone and called the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. That whistle blower tip led to a notice of violation that could now cost the airport a substantial fine.

Air quality officials say this is not the first time the airport has done renovation work involving asbestos and that managers should have known about the reporting and inspection procedures that had to be followed before the work got underway.

?Survey was not conducted to see if the material that being disturbed contained asbestos. That's the big thing that wasn't followed. Survey was not conducted and it was removed improperly,? Woodard said.

Airport officials say as soon as they learned about the presence of asbestos when they began their next carpet project they did follow proper safety procedures.

The airport has received a notice of violation as a result of this incident last spring and will be assessed up to several thousand dollars in fines next month for the code violations related to the asbestos removal.