Union Pacific and government lawyers agreed for the company to pay over $200,000 in a settlement for mishandling of asbestos. Investigation costs of $28,202 and a payment of $200,000 were sought from Union Pacific in the settlement deal, but before it could be enforced, it needed the approval of a U.S. District Court judge.
Zoe Richmond, spokeswoman for the Nebraska-based Union Pacific noted of the settlement, “We feel this is the best resolution you can have in a situation like this.” The settlement stemmed from an incident in 2005. Union Pacific took it into their own hands to have 13 signal sheds demolished. These sheds sat along one of their railroad tracks in Utah. The actual recycling was conducted by a local firm, Western Metals Recycling of Salt Lake City.
Of the 13 sheds, only 12 were shredded by the company; the last shed was found, and an analysis showed that there were 123 square feet of chrysotile asbestos in its construction. Chrysotile asbestos is one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos. Inhalation of its fibers or particles can cause several deadly lung diseases, including numerous forms of cancer and a scarring of the lungs known as asbestosis. Cancers from asbestos exposure do not develop until decades after inhalation, but by then, it is too late. Lung cancer and mesothelioma caused by asbestos generally offer sufferers less than a year to live after their diagnoses. The problem with Union Pacific having these buildings shredded was that in doing so, the asbestos in the components of the sheds was broken up and could have become airborne. This put those working for Western Metals Recycling and anyone standing nearby at risk for asbestos exposure. According to Richmond, there were no injuries from the incident, but the Utah Division of Air Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found Union Pacific to be in violation of the asbestos handling regulations set out by the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.