UWSP charged with asbestos violations - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UWSP charged with asbestos violations

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STEVENS POINT (WAOW) -- A state investigation has charged UW Stevens Point with violating several regulations related to asbestos.

The investigation report, filed in July by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, says a construction project in the Communication Arts Center last year contained asbestos, and that the school failed to protect its employees.

But UWSP officials say they have appealed the findings.

The investigation occurred in response to a complaint filed by a UWSP associate professor of communication. The report lists six violations against the school and corrective action that must be taken by next month.

According to the report, tile containing asbestos was removed by a contractor from room 234 in the CAC, the site of a restroom renovation. The report indicated this is a place where employees work.

"UW Stevens Point did not provide a Competent Person to carry out required actions to protect employee health," according to the report.

The report also says UWSP did not determine how much asbestos existed before opening the project up to bidding.

"Documents and emails demonstrate a lack of recordkeeping, inaccurate recordkeeping, and a reliance on third party recordkeeping and inspection without oversight," according to the report.

As a result of failing to identify the presence of asbestos, UWSP did not notify employees working nearby that the construction project included asbestos abatement. The university also failed to provide alternate routes around the construction project or post signs warning of asbestos, according to the report.

Finally, UWSP "did not ensure that employee complaints regarding asbestos and non asbestos air contaminants and noise exposure…were evaluated by an employee with sufficient training and experience," according to the report.

The investigation report requires the school to address the violations and correct them by September 13. This includes keeping employees away from areas where asbestos could migrate, not starting any more projects until the location of the asbestos is determined, explaining the violations in question, and developing plans to prevent similar problems in the future.

But UWSP officials dispute the report. Jeff Karcher, UWSP director of Safety & Loss, said the school has appealed the report.

"We feel that we were in compliance with the overall requirements of the asbestos removal and we disagree with the vast majority of the orders that were issued by the department of commerce," said Karcher.

Karcher said the contractor took all of the required actions to protect the health of employees. He said the petition also says UWSP did notify its employees during the actual removal work.

Karcher also said the building where the renovation took place is safe.

A full copy of the state investigation report has been posted next to this story.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer. When asbestos is disturbed through construction or demolition, fibers can be released into the air If people breathe those fibers in, they can get trapped in the lungs for a long time.

According to the National Cancer Institute, inhaling a lot of asbestos fibers can cause scarring, inflammation, and lung cancer. Mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer caused by asbestos.

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