The News Journal | Opinion | by Rep. John Kowalko
More than four months after I joined residents, workers, and local union officials in calling for an investigation into the asbestos removal project at the former Boxwood GM site, DNREC has chosen to levy a negligible fine against EcoServices Inc. for its asbestos removal malpractices.
As an asbestosis victim who suffers from the condition of asbestos exposure, I felt a significant personal stake in protecting the workers, their families, and the residents in the area from the consequences of improper asbestos removal.
At that time, I met personally with DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin to urge him to take immediate action and halt further removal operations at the site. I am still waiting for a response from Secretary Garvin to my concerns.
The work in question posed a serious and ongoing threat to the health and welfare of the exposed workers and to the families of nearby densely populated neighborhoods. Harvey Hanna and Associates were informed four months ago and refused to sufficiently intervene or investigate.
I saw the following quote in Karl Baker’s recent News Journal article: “In a statement, Newport developer Harvey Hanna and Associates – which owns the plant and hired EcoServices – said, ‘We have only recently learned of the issue between DNREC and EcoServices, and out of respect for the regulatory process, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.”
This seems disingenuous and disrespectful to the workers and families exposed to this serious health threat expressed by the Harvey Hanna group.
Further compounding my feelings of frustration and any sense of fairness was the relatively paltry fine levied by DNREC against EcoServices for its harmful actions.
“The findings (of DNREC’s investigation) prompted DNREC to fine the asbestos company, EcoServices LLC and its foreman $20,000 each for violating emission standards for hazardous air pollutants. They were fined an additional $13,000 for the cost of the DNREC investigation,” the story says.
A small price to pay for what could be a very expensive public health consequence.
EcoServices should be censured and barred from any future asbestos removal projects in Delaware and not permitted to bid on them in the future. Harvey Hanna and Associates should publicly apologize to the workers and neighboring families and publicly promise that they will refine their oversight of subcontractors and react more expeditiously in the future when such threats to the public health are exposed.