Flooring company settles asbestos-removal claim

Nick Rees Dec. 15, 2009, 5:17pm

Van Hollen

THIENSVILLE, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - A lawsuit against a Thiensville, Wis., for violations of air pollution control laws that regulate the handling of asbestos-containing materials has been resolved, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has announced.

Handeland Flooring Inc., which engages in the laying, replacing and refinishing of floors, was contracted in summer 2007 by the First United Methodist Church of West Allis to remove old asbestos-containing flooring and to install new flooring in a dining room and hallway.

"The excessive emission of air pollution can threaten the quality of the air we breathe and public health," Van Hollen said. "That is particularly true with respect to a potentially dangerous pollutant like asbestos, because exposure to airborne asbestos fibers is believed to increase the risk of serious lung diseases."

Handeland, the civil complaint says, began work on Aug. 9, 2007, when it began removing old nine-by-nine inch asbestos-containing tiles and sanding the underlying asbestos-containing adhesive material on the floor.

The complaint alleges that, as part of this work, Handeland did not inspect the premises for asbestos prior to starting the project. State law requires that before work can commence on renovation a of a building, it must first be inspected for asbestos.

Handeland also failed to provide prior notice to the Department of Natural Resources of its renovation intention before it began stripping and removing the asbestos-containing material, Van Hollen said.

Renovators must provide the DNR with written notice no later than ten working days prior to the start of work of any renovation that may disturb certain amounts of regulated asbestos-containing material.

As part of the work, Handeland is alleged to have failed to wet all regulated asbestos-containing material that was removed from the church basement. The material was then not kept wet until it was collected for proper disposal, which state law requires to minimize emissions of asbestos fibers into the air, Van Hollen says.

Finally, the complaint alleges that Handeland did have properly trained individuals on the job sites. At least one on-site representative must, under state law, have proper training in the control of asbestos emissions when material containing asbestos is being stripped, removed, handled or disturbed.

Handeland will pay penalties totaling $20,000 under terms of the settlement agreement, which was approved by Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Witkowiak.

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