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JESSUP, Md. -- The U.S. has settled its suit against Maryland’s Department of General Services over alleged violations of federal asbestos regulations during a 1993 renovation of the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup, Maryland. The department manages, operates and maintains state buildings.
In a proposed consent decree filed in federal district court in Baltimore, the state has agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty and take steps to prevent future asbestos violations in public buildings.
The government filed a Clean Air Act complaint in July 1997 against Absolute Enterprises, Inc., the contractor hired to remove vinyl asbestos floor tile, and the state which owns Perkins Hospital. The complaint alleged the defendants failed to submit accurate project notifications and mishandled and failed to adequately wet asbestos-containing debris prior to disposal. The complaint also alleged the defendants failed to have at least one employee trained in asbestos regulations on-site, and failed to deposit asbestos debris in a proper waste disposal site.
In April 1998, the court issued a default judgment of $361,957 against Absolute Enterprises. The Manassas-based contractor, which is now in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, did not appear in court to contest these allegations.
In addition to the $20,000 penalty, the state has agreed to several steps designed to prevent future asbestos violations in state-owned buildings in Maryland. These safeguards include making at least one visual inspection of all asbestos removal projects
in state owned buildings, conducting background checks on asbestos contractors hired, notifying the Maryland Department of the Environment of any compliance problems, and appointing a trained asbestos program manager to oversee regulatory compliance at asbestos projects in state buildings.
Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant that was once heavily used in insulation and other building materials. Exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause cancer and asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease.
The settlement announced today is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.