This case involves a property owner of an antiquated rental property, whose tenants complained that many of the appliances were outdated and that the home had numerous structural problems and pest infestations. The property owner consequently began to do a number of renovations to the interior and exterior of the home, and hired a heating contractor to replace the boiler in the rental property. The rental property was currently occupied by a family with several children. The contractor did not seal off the basement while he worked to replace the boiler. While the contractor was working, insulation from the heating pipes that contained asbestos was removed. The contractor was not a licensed asbestos contractor. The contractor did not notify the state Department of Environmental Protection that he would be disturbing asbestos when he replaced the boiler. The contractor did not follow appropriate procedures to prevent asbestos emissions and additionally disposed of the asbestos material in household trash bags. The state Attorney General indicted the property owner and the contractor for improper asbestos removal.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Does a property owner who wants to remove asbestos in a rental property have to follow certain procedures for asbestos removal and disposal?
Expert Witness Response
In general, a property owner who wants to remove asbestos in a project like this must get a licensed asbestos contractor to do the job. This is usually required by the Department of Labor in most states and also is required by state Department of Environmental Protection regulations. The contractor who is hired to do the job must report to the Department of Environmental Protection about exactly when the removal of asbestos will take place. Also, the contractor must follow certain methods and standards for the safe removal, storage and disposal of the asbestos to prevent any exposure to other people who may reside on the property. These standards must be followed because any exposure to asbestos caused by the job could put people who live on the property at risk of developing mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. In this case, when the contractor removed the asbestos improperly, he increased the health risk to the family and children living on the property because airborne fibers were released into the environment. The contractor in this case was required to immediately find a suitable replacement material (usually fiberglass) to insulate the boiler. The contractor in this case also should have closed off the basement so that the family would not be exposed. The contractor was also required to properly dispose of the asbestos by putting it in double 6 mil plastic bags, labeling it as asbestos, and making sure that it was later hauled to an approved asbestos landfill to be disposed according to state and federal regulations.