Fire Chief Forced to Retire for Illegal Asbestos Removal

Hannibal, Missouri Fire Chief Tim Carter will retire from his department on December 31 as a condition of a settlement with the city concerning allegations of fraud, neglect, insubordination and other wrongdoings related to several firefighters’ removal of asbestos building materials from Fire Department-owned buildings in January 2009. 

Carter is accused of endangering firefighters in his department by telling them to remove asbestos-containing materials from the former KHQA-TV studio that was donated to the Hannibal Fire Department in August 2008.  Exposure to asbestos can cause a multitude of health issues including asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. Dale DeLaPorte, a retired Hannibal firefighter, informed his union that there were asbestos-containing materials inside the building that firefighters were helping to renovate for their department’s use.  The City Council had not approved a bid for the building’s renovation, but Chief Carter told firefighters to begin the renovation work anyway. 

During the renovation, DeLaPorte saw some unfamiliar material in a trash outside the building, and after making a few calls, he was surprised to learn that the material was pipe insulation containing asbestos.  Asbestos was often added to building materials for both durability and fire-proof qualities. Chief Carter had been aware that the building contained asbestos materials, but he had kept that information from others in the department. 

An asbestos building inspector had alerted Carter that a July 30 inspection showed asbestos in six of 22 samples taken from the building.   That didn’t even include the pipe insulation, which was not tested until after DeLaPorte discovered it in the dumpster.  Carter was advised that asbestos-containing materials should be removed only by trained professionals with the correct protective equipment. 

Instead, he had firefighters wearing dust masks and street clothes working in the building. In addition Carter’s retirement, a formal complaint was filed with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which ultimately issued a letter of warning to the Hannibal Fire Department for violating state regulations on asbestos removal for the pipe insulation and two sets of floor tiles with asbestos-containing glue.

Have you or a loved one been exposed to asbestos?  An asbestos lawyer may be able to help.