Report: Officials Incorrect that Asbestos Removed from Prison

February 14, 2008

A state prison report suggests a southern Ohio prison was laden with dangerous asbestos despite an official’s claims otherwise.

A May 2007 survey, obtained by The Columbus Dispatch, shows prison officials were worried that the tiled floors and pipe insulation at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution contained asbestos that could cause cancer. The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report found small areas of the infirmary contained crumbling asbestos. A pharmacist also worried the tile floor was flaking with powdered asbestos.

A federal lawsuit accuses the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction of lying about efforts to remove that asbestos and says officials showed a deliberate indifference to a known health risk at the prison. According to the federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of 33 inmates and four former inmates, powdered asbestos was found on the floors and the inmates were exposed to the material, which is a health risk only if it is crumbling or airborne.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Lyons said the state has spent $375,920 since 2005 to remove or contain the asbestos at the prison, which is about 45 miles south of Columbus. She also said none of the 2,850 inmates or 587 employees were harmed.

Last year, a state prison inspector incorrectly claimed the last asbestos was removed two years ago. Last week, Warden Robin Knab sought to clarify those statements.

“At the time, all aboveground asbestos in this area was encapsulated,” Knab wrote in a memo dated Thursday.

Other reports noted that asbestos removal programs also faced problems. In a 2006 memo, a prison official described a breach in the system that was supposed to contain asbestos in underground tunnels.

“We have placed our staff and inmates in a situation of possible exposure and may be violating” environmental regulations, a prison official wrote.

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,

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