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June 19, 2018

Asbestos clean-up bill for two ships could top €1m

Industry insiders have estimated it could end up costing the taxpayer around €1m to remove asbestos from two Naval Service vessels which were supposed to be free of the potentially lethal substance.

Work to remove asbestos started on sister ships LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla on May 28, despite a consultancy firm giving them the all-clear 14 years ago.

The firm has since closed, which means it is highly unlikely the clean-up costs can be recouped. Ultimately the bill will fall to the taxpayer.

The Defence Forces confirmed that work on removing asbestos from the LÉ Ciara is now complete. It is expected the ship will become operational in the coming weeks. The clean-up on LÉ Orla is still ongoing.

The Defence Forces press office said it estimated that this will be completed sometime in the next four months.

The press office said it would not be releasing the costs of the clean-up while the work is ongoing.

However, industry sources say the bill could be anything up to €14,000 a week, especially as asbestos has to be exported to Germany as there are no suitable sites here capable of disposing of it safely.

If these asbestos clean-up costs are accurate, it means the final bill could be around €1m.

The LÉ Aoife was found to have asbestos in a gasket in an engine and the substance was also detected in LÉ Eithne’s forward pump room.

Both ships will undergo a further examination as part of a fleet-wide asbestos survey ordered by Naval Service senior officers.

It is unlikely that asbestos will be found onboard the fleet’s newer ships as the substance was widely used in the 1980s in the ship- building industry, especially in engine rooms to insulate pipes and boilers.

At the time, it was considered the best and most cost-effective insulating material and was also fire-resistant.

Meanwhile, Siptu industrial organiser Jason Palmer said his members — civilian workers at the Naval base — who were exposed to asbestos on the vessels have all had medical screening.

This has also been completed for all Naval Service personnel who were potentially in contact with the substance.

He said the Department of Defence had confirmed it will put a plan in place to ensure that ongoing screening will take place for them, as it can take up to 40 years for asbestos symptoms to manifest themselves.

Mr Palmer said asbestos-awareness training had been completed by union members on the base and some have already started a course on the safe removal of the substance.

“Discussions are ongoing about getting the remainder trained in that,” Mr Palmer said.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Asbestos clean-up bill for two ships could top €1m

Naval Service begins fleet-wide survey for asbestos

The Naval Service has begun a fleet-wide survey for asbestos after the potentially lethal substance was discovered in four of its ships.

The Department of Defence also confirmed it is still carrying out work on two ships which have spent months in dry dock since asbestos was found.

Work to clean out asbestos from the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla began on May 28. A Department of Defence spokeswoman said that the operation, which is being conducted along Health and Safety Authority guidelines, is ongoing.

She said: “There is as of yet no confirmed date for completion of works. The Naval Service and the specialist contractor are working closely together to complete works safely and quickly.”

The department has not given any cost for the work, but sources in PDForra, which represents enlisted men in the Naval Service, said it was “likely to be very expensive”.

The LÉ Aoife was found to have asbestos in a gasket in an engine. The substance was also detected in LÉ Eithne’s forward pump room. However, they have not been dry-docked like the other two vessels which appear to have far more significant asbestos issues.

The department said the outcome of the fleet-wide screening would determine what course of action would be needed to address any issues which might arise.

In the 1980s, asbestos was widely used in the ship- building industry, especially in engine rooms to insulate pipes and boilers. At the time, it was considered the best and most cost-effective insulating material and was also fire-resistant.

In 2000, the Naval Service had commissioned consultants to examine its ships for the substance and it had reported a clean bill of health. The Service was shocked to discover that a substance which had been ground up on board one of the vessels during routine maintenance turned out to be asbestos.

It becomes dangerous if broken up, as dust can get into people’s lungs and cause serious illness or death. It can take up to 40 years for symptoms to manifest.

The Naval Service has since introduced protocols to identify and deal with any asbestos found on vessels.

A total of 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers are understood to have come in contact with asbestos on board the ships or at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island, Cobh.

“All Naval Service personnel have been medically screened. Medical screening has also been undertaken for civilian employees and is nearing completion with seven civilian staff remaining to be seen,” the spokes-woman added.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Naval Service begins fleet-wide survey for asbestos

Governor Signs Asbestos Lawsuit Bill Despite Veterans' Opposition

There are thousands of asbestos-related deaths in the U.S. every year. Thursday, Governor Walker signed a bill that changes the process for bringing asbestos exposure lawsuits in Wisconsin.

It’s a bill that was strongly opposed by numerous veterans groups. Now veterans harmed by asbestos say it’s going to be much harder to prove their case.

Dave Behrend, commander of VFW Post 7534, worked on a Navy ship back in 1972.

“On the ship at that time, everything had asbestos. Everything did.”

Asbestos was used extensively for fireproofing and insulation.

Behrend worked in a mechanical room, where he says asbestos filled the air.

“We couldn’t see from four feet away. It was impossible to see the door. The lights were very, very dim, the dust was so thick. And they had a lot of bright lights yet,” said Behrend.

Asbestos is now known to cause an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma decades after exposure. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is 2 years or less.

Thursday, Governor Walker quietly signed the asbestos exposure bill into law “to ensure transparency in the lawsuit process and stop trial lawyers from double dipping,” according to administration spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.

But veterans groups in Wisconsin say the changes will stall or stop the process for many victims.

Behrend fears, “if my turn came and I had to make a claim” he wouldn’t live through litigation.

Time is not on a plaintiff’s side. “At that time they don’t have to pay out, at that time, or they can go for a lesser amount.”

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Governor Signs Asbestos Lawsuit Bill Despite Veterans' Opposition