EPA Orders Halt to Asbestos Removal at Tennessee Rayon Plant

Morristown, Tennessee – The improper handling of asbestos by a salvage company at the bankrupt Liberty Fibers rayon plant in Morristown has become so hazardous to workers and public health that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the company to stop operations immediately. The salvager is required to submit a work plan for cleanup of the asbestos that is scattered around the property and buried in waste piles.
On March 12, EPA officials rescinded and terminated an August 2008 consent agreement with A & E Salvage and issued an immediate compliance order. The order requires Liberty Fibers to cease any further asbestos-handling activity at the facility which may lead to the dissemination of asbestos fibers. When inhaled, airborne asbestos fibers can increase the risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma. The order alleges that A & E Salvage violated the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Asbestos under the Clean Air Act. Most of the buildings, structures, associated piping and some of the salvaged and demolished equipment contained larger chunks of asbestos, as well as small particles and fibers. A & E Salvage violated the Asbestos NESHAP regulations by failing to conduct a thorough inspection of the facility and failing to properly notify state officials of the work prior to beginning salvage and demolition operations. In addition, the salvager failed to keep all asbestos waste materials adequately wet at all times to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. The company also failed to remove all asbestos-containing waste materials before conducting salvage and demolition work, making it impossible to retrieve the hazardous asbestos for proper disposal. The salvager failed to properly dispose of asbestos-containing waste materials, instead leaving them in piles around the property. A & E hired workers who were not properly trained in asbestos abatement work, and allowed the workers to handle asbestos materials without proper protection against exposure to asbestos, the EPA inspectors found. “A & E Salvage’s violations of the Asbestos NESHAP have placed, and continue to place, workers who handle asbestos materials at risk because they are working without proper safety equipment, proper training and supervision,” the EPA said today, adding that others who are present at the facility during asbestos removal operations are also at a potentially serious risk of harm due to exposure to asbestos fibers.