According to the Detroit Free Press, a Bay City contractor recruited workers at a homeless shelter and paid them cash to remove pipes wrapped in insulation made with asbestos.
The workers had no training, no protective gear, no water to wet the crumbly asbestos and no leak-proof bags in which to dispose of it. Some did the work dressed in flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts.
The crew included an ex-con, a drug addict, and at least six residents of a Rescue Mission, located across a parking lot from the job site. At one point during the project — the renovation of a church for a charter school — a ceiling with asbestos rained down dust, thick as snow.
DETROIT FREE PRESS
Deadly asbestos: Workers put in jeopardy, but state won’t get tough
At the Contractor’s federal trial on charges of improper asbestos abatement, assistant U.S. attorney Janet Parker told jurors that promising the men cash “was a convenient way of getting workers to do work that was very unpleasant, very difficult, very hazardous at times.”
“The workers were people who were very desperate for a job,” she said. “They were desperate for any kind of money.”
Across the country, the Free Press found other examples of contractors, who prey on vulnerable people to take material containing asbestos out of aging buildings: immigrants, ex-cons, day laborers, homeless people and teenagers.
Experts say documenting the extent of the problem is difficult because workers may be afraid to complain or may not know who to call. In many cases, they don’t speak English.
Craig Gestring, an assistant U.S. attorney in Rochester, N.Y., said he has prosecuted several cases that involved workers who were “unskilled, unknowledgeable and are basically patsies and it’s always done to save a buck.”
He said he believes it is a growing problem as more and more older buildings are demolished or renovated and contractors cut corners.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency both investigated the Contractor. MIOSHA cited his company, for several violations — none involving asbestos — and levied $300 in penalties. The EPA got a four-count indictment against Bradley and a conviction on all charges after an eight-day jury trial. His sentence: five years.
Asbestos abatement is performed commonly in older homes and historic structures. Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective; thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. If you or a friend have been diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, please call us at 1(800)995-6991 for a free consultation.