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U.S. EPA fines Santa Barbara construction company for asbestos violations

Release Date: 8/19/2004
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano (415) 947-4307

SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday fined Blankenship Construction Inc. $5,000 for asbestos violations during demolition work on structures located on Bath Street in Santa Barbara in 2001.

The company was fined failing to notify the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District prior to the work at 207-213 Bath Street in November 2001 as required by federal law.

"Asbestos removal is hazardous work and must be done in a manner to minimize any threat to workers or the public," said Deborah Jordan, the EPA's air division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Notification must be made to the local air quality authority so inspectors can ensure asbestos fibers are not released to the outside air."

Federal asbestos national emission standards requires that notification for demolitions be made to the local delegated air district 10 days prior to the start of demolition. Following an investigation by the Air Pollution Control District, inspectors determined the structures were demolished without the required notification.

Asbestos fibers in the air are considered a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA. The potentially devastating health effects of exposure to asbestos demonstrate the need for professional handling of asbestos during demolition or removal operations. Yesterday's fine is for notification violations only. The EPA is unable to determine whether asbestos fibers were released during the work.

The EPA has set basic work standards for asbestos removal and disposal to protect the general public. To enforce these standards, inspectors must know when renovations and demolitions occur. The lack of notice in this case meant that inspectors could not conduct inspections of the active demolition to determine the company's compliance with asbestos regulations.

Asbestos has been used in building materials, paper products, plastics, and other products. Exposure mainly occurs in indoor air where it may be released from these materials. Effects on the lungs are a major health concern from asbestos, as long-term exposure to asbestos in humans via inhalation can result in a lung disease termed asbestosis or cancer.
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