US News Roundup: Asbestos Cases in the United States

In California , a Tracy man was convicted of illegally demolishing an asbestos-contaminated building in Hayward . Wassim Mohammad Azizi, age 37, was found guilty on three separate counts of violating the Clean Air Act. Azizi razed a vacant two-story wooden building that he owned on Mission Boulevard in Hayward . Azizi’s trial lasted five days, and a federal jury decided that he had failed to notify the EPA and local jurisdictional bodies that his demolition would release asbestos, and that he had failed to properly handle the asbestos on-site by keeping the asbestos-containing materials wet and contained. Azizi will be sentenced in late summer of 2008. In Colorado , a Boulder apartment complex will remain empty after state health officials discovered dangerously high levels of asbestos following an apartment fire.

The complex of 31 apartments was evacuated during the fire, but in the followup investigation, state health officials found high levels of asbestos at the site and ordered it to remain empty. The fire damaged seven apartments but nobody was harmed, and firefighters had the blaze under control quickly. The Boulder Red Cross opened a shelter for residents and say they are handling 12 refugees from the fire. In Virginia , state health officials are investigating whether asbestos-contaminated debris from a Navy housing project in Newport News was illegally dumped in a Suffolk landfill. The owner of the landfill said that tests are underway to determine whether the debris from the Navy site is friable; his site is permitted to accept non-friable asbestos-contaminated material which has not been damaged or broken down and thus does not generally pose a health hazard. The landfill owner, John Holland, contacted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality when he became suspicious that some of the material being dumped contained friable asbestos.

The state dispatched an investigator and test results are expected shortly. In Texas, Jefferson County commissioners voted to spend $16,000 for asbestos remediation in the old county courthouse. Some of the appropriation will be used to pay for recent testing of air samples from the courthouse. The remainder will be used to clean up asbestos that has been found on the fourth and seventh floors of the courthouse building. The county is currently being sued by the widow of late Jefferson County Judge James Ferris, who worked in the courthouse for many years before dying of an asbestos-related illness in 2004. The suit has been ongoing for the past two years.