March 19, 2019

Risk study on mining town finds even small amount of asbestos exposure can lead to lung problems


A long-delayed risk study for a Montana mining town where hundreds have died from asbestos exposure concludes that even a minuscule amount of the substance can lead to lung problems.

The 328-page document released Monday will determine when work can end on the cleanup of asbestos dust from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby.

Cleanup efforts in the scenic mountain town that’s become synonymous with asbestos dangers already have addressed more than 2,000 homes and businesses, at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Despite Libby’s many deaths, the Environmental Protection Agency is using a less-drastic benchmark, lung scarring, to help determine how much asbestos poses a risk.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain.

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Risk study on mining town finds even small amount of asbestos exposure can lead to lung problems

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.

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

Asbestos risk minimal: KiwiRail

KiwiRail is confident the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos in its DL locomotives is minimal.

KiwiRail says just seven of the 204 samples taken for testing showed a very small presence of non-respirable asbestos in five locomotives.

Testing confirmed no presence of any asbestos dust in the remaining 34 locomotives in the operating fleet.

“With the majority of the locomotives showing minimal risk for exposure to airborne fibre, we are confident that appropriate measures can be put in place that will enable us to progressively bring these locomotives back into service soon,” KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said.

“We have repeatedly said no locomotive will operate until we are completely satisfied it poses no risk to our people. To that end we are working through a robust process with our expert advisors and WorkSafe to determine a safe re-entry into operation for the locomotives.”

KiwiRail was forced to take 40 DL locomotives off the tracks late last month after asbestos was found in a sample.

The substance was found in the soundproofing compound used in the locomotives, prompting KiwiRail to carry out extensive testing.

The state-owned rail company earlier said the use of asbestos was a breach of contractual specifications for the design and manufacture of the locomotives.

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Asbestos risk minimal: KiwiRail