Another interesting thing that happens when government abdicates its responsibilities and hands them off to the private sector is a phenomenon in which a private corporation with friends in the government is awarded a “no-bid” contract, then turns around and subcontracts the job to a second company, which in turn hires a third subcontractor, and so on. Each corporation takes a cut of taxpayer money while performing no work, and the folks at the end of the chain wind up doing a sloppy job, which is no surprise, since by that point, workers are paid next to nothing. This sort of corporate behavior has been rampant in New Orleans. It’s happening in Boston as well, with the cleanup from the recent steam pipe explosion on Otis Street. When the pipe exploded in Boston’s financial district on 12 September, it spread asbestos contamination over a wide area. Trigen Energy Corporation, which owns, operates and is responsible for the maintenance of 22 miles of steam pipe beneath the city’s streets, hired a company called LVI Services to remove the asbestos. According to its website, LVI offers lead paint and asbestos abatement, proudly stating that they are “able to be on site quickly after disaster strikes with personnel and equipment to get our clients’ businesses back online as rapidly and with as little business interruption as possible.”
Unfortunately, in this case, LVI didn’t show up at all. Instead, LVI subcontracted the job to a third company, Walton Systems, International, Inc., which in at least one public listing, claims to offer asbestos inspection and removal. When official HazMat inspectors from the Boston City Fire Department showed up on the scene however, they found that Walton employees were using the wrong type of truck for the job, and discovered that Walton Systems was not even licensed for asbestos abatement. Boston mayor Thomas Menino bypassed Trigen, firing both Walton Services and LVI Services, but stopped short of criticizing Boston’s private utility company that did the hiring in the first place. Fleet Environmental Services has now been retained to complete the asbestos abatement project. Meanwhile, air testing by the Boston Fire Department showed no significant amounts of friable asbestos fibers.