EPA Urged to Shut Down Dangerous Asbestos Removal Method
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General has just signed an “Early Warning Report” that will shut down a dangerous and unapproved asbestos removal method that two EPA offices have been testing for the past seven years.The report supports what Public Justice has been arguing — that the method both endangers public health and doesn’t work.
The approved method requires all asbestos to be removed from a building by trained specialists wearing protective gear before it is demolished. Under the unapproved method, called the “Alternative Asbestos Control Method,” or AACM, most of the asbestos-containing materials are left in place during demolition. Water with added surfactants is sprayed on the building to try to suppress asbestos release and contamination.
The report, “Use of Unapproved Asbestos Demolition Methods May Threaten Public Health” (see link to report and other documents below), states that the EPA conducted tests of this method and each time got releases of asbestos, potentially exposing on-site workers and nearby residents to the deadly carcinogen.
Public Justice, environmental groups and labor unions have long urged the EPA to shut down its asbestos-removal experiments, but the agency would not. So Public Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the underlying data about these experiments. The EPA did not release most of the documents, numbering over 26,000 pages, until after the groups sued in federal court to force disclosure.
The released documents include several showing that one of the EPA’s own senior scientists found that the asbestos-removal tests did not comply with health and safety standards and may have endangered demolition workers and agency employees. A detailed summary of the history of the AACM can be found below.
The Department of Energy recently used the unapproved method at its Hanford, Wash., site and is planning to use it again in Paducah, Ky., but today’s Inspector General report states clearly that government agencies should immediately stop any further use of this method.
“We hope this new report will finally put the nail in the coffin of this unapproved and dangerous method of asbestos removal,” said Jim Hecker, the director of Public Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Project.
The report also says that the EPA should notify all workers and nearby residents who were exposed during the tests.