The state of Georgia is facing budget cuts and a halt on hiring, which may lead to a decrease in the enforcement and regulation of environmental laws.
The entity that is in charge of monitoring and investigating violations of environmental laws is the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. These individuals grant permits to businesses across the state who treat drinking water, collect scrap tires, run landfills, or release air and water pollution.
The manager of the waste reduction and abatement program for one EPD branch, Lon Revall, is in charge of enforcing asbestos regulations. Revall said, “When there are cuts, it affects how quickly we can issue permits…And then we’re not out there to make sure it’s being done right.”
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is a known carcinogen. This fiber consists of long, thin fibrous crystals and may be mixed with other substances in order to resist heat, electricity and chemical damage. Due to these characteristics, asbestos was used in many buildings and other structures throughout the 1900s. Once the asbestos fiber is damaged and exposed, it is inhaled and lodged between the organs linings becoming inescapable. The exposure may lead to many asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis or mesothelioma.
“It was extremely frustrating to the staff because we know asbestos is dangerous. There is no safe exposure level and the program is needed, but yet we were under-resourced,” said Revall, displeased.
The responsibility for enforcing environmental law has been shifted, in order to save $179,000, to the responsibility of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The asbestos program in Georgia was mostly discontinued last month.
The state plans to continue approving asbestos contractor licenses and maintain the monitoring notifications about upcoming projects that will disturb asbestos.
Officials believe that the budget cut will only allow for contractors removing asbestos to do so without notifying authorities. Mr. Revall reported that the state receives 4,000 project notifications a year, but believes that that number is only a part of the projects actually taking place. In previous years, there have been too few employees in the industry to conduct unreported inspections.