The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) assessed a civil penalty of more than $19,000 against two Pittsburgh-area contractors recently for violating local asbestos-related air pollution regulations.
In a Jan. 8 enforcement order against CPR Holdings of Gibsonia and Flynn Construction Management General Contracting Inc. of Pittsburgh posted to the health department website this week, ACHD officials outlined the companies’ nine air pollution control act violations.
The violations and associated fine stem from the demolition of a commercial structure on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh in 2018. The enforcement order indicates that the companies failed to complete required asbestos surveys and notification forms, and worse – failed to protect workers who were removing asbestos-containing materials during the demolition.
In the enforcement order, ACHD said CPR Holdings and Flynn Construction Management General Contracting also violated local asbestos-related air quality violations by:
Failing to post asbestos warning signs at all entrances to the structure
Failing to prepare a worksite prior to asbestos-containing material being removed from the site
Failing to install a decontamination enclosure system where workers could properly decontaminate themselves before exiting the work site
Failing to use ACHD-approved work practices for removal of the asbestos-containing material
The order against CPR Holdings and Flynn Construction was one of a spate of asbestos-related enforcement actions taken by ACHD so far this year. Other actions included:
A Jan. 22 enforcement order against Sixth Ward Flats of Pittsburgh, Costa Contracting of Cheswick, and Nelcon, Inc. of Glenshaw for demolishing a commercial structure without submitting a required asbestos-abatement form or notifying the county within 10 days of demolition as mandated. ACHD assessed a $1,350 penalty for the county air pollution control infractions – $350 of which was levied because prior enforcement action had been taken against them in the past two years.
A Jan. 22 enforcement order against Mark German of Canonsburg and South Park-based Schaaf Excavating Contractors included a $715 fine. The fine stemmed from the demolition of a commercial structure on West Carson Street. ACHD said German and the company failed to submit required asbestos-related paperwork. The county air pollution control act requires companies to notify ACHD 10 days prior to demolition commencing – something German and Schaaf Excavating also failed to do, according to the enforcement order.
By way of background, asbestos is the name of a collection of silicate minerals used in many products throughout the 20th century. Everything from cement to shingles was made with asbestos because of its strength and resistance to heat.
ACMs were used in residential and commercial settings for decades, even after the carcinogenic effects of this fiber became apparent in humans. It wasn’t until the 1980s that asbestos was partially banned from being used in the United States in new building materials. However, some products are still permitted to use small amounts of asbestos and, as we’ve recently seen with products containing talcum powder, asbestos still contaminates consumer products.
When asbestos is left undisturbed it does not pose a health risk. If asbestos pipe insulation, for example, is intact and has not deteriorated, it’s likely not affecting indoor air quality. If that pipe insulation were falling apart and the fibers became friable and airborne, this creates a potentially dangerous situation.