N.Y. Contractor Questioned Over Asbestos Removal Conditions

April 11, 2007

Federal officials have proposed fining a contractor $57,000 for allegedly exposing employees to asbestos-related health problems at a suburban construction project.

Aapex Environmental Services Inc. was cited for six alleged violations of occupational health standards at the former Agway building in DeWitt following an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Association.

OSHA’s inspection found that required monitoring of employee exposure to asbestos was not conducted on several occasions, even though monitoring records indicated it had been done. That finding resulted in a proposed fine of $42,000.

The inspection also found that Aapex failed to collect short-term air sampling, keep accurate exposure monitoring records, notify employees of sampling results, train employees to properly establish an asbestos containment system, and prevent asbestos-contaminated water from leaking from an enclosed work area. Those five citations resulted in another $15,000 in proposed fines.

Aapex has scheduled an April 20 meeting with OSHA to discuss the penalties, according to agency spokesman Ted Fitzgerald.

The proposed fines come on the heels of an admission last month by an Aapex supervisor that he improperly disposed of cancer-causing asbestos fibers, allowing them to drain into public sewers, contaminate construction debris and collect in public spaces outside the Agway building.

Everett Blatche, 44, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Superfund law. Blatche, who said he would cooperate with federal officials, faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced in August.

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