An update on asbestos removal laws, as it relates to Pinelands Regional High School

Written by Jeff Epstein, Editor of Citizens’ Media TV

This article is not solid reporting. It is basically a journal entry of what we discovered today. If you can assist in further understanding these concepts, please get in touch (citizensmediatv@gmail.com). Special thanks to a Little Egg Harbor resident who wishes to stay anonymous.

We’ve been trying to discover what we can about the asbestos removal process on top of Pinelands Regional High School. The fact that the daycare was just discovered to have asbestos in its playground further suggests that the removal was not handled properly. In addition, the weekend of October 7th was the second asbestos removal process. The first was when the project originally began. The second time was only because the first was done improperly.

So was Kobithen Roofing and/or New Road Construction (whoever did the removal) qualified to do this removal? We have confirmed that the township of Little Egg Harbor has given no permits related to hazardous waste removal of any kind, as it relates to the high school during the year of 2017. We have also put out five OPRA requests to various state and county agencies, in an effort to obtain the asbestos removal plan. The contract requires that a plan be submitted to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection before any removal takes place. Although there are a couple requests still pending, we have so far come up empty.

We spoke today to the Office of Asbestos Control and Licensing at the NJ Department of Labor, which is the primary office that handles asbestos related issues for the state. They do license private contractors, but according to NJ AC 12:120-1.4.b.5, “The removal of asbestos-containing roofing” is an “exempted activity.” In other words, as best as we currently understand, contractors are not required to have any licensing or certification for removing asbestos off a roof.

(We were also told by this office that there is a distinction between taking the asbestos off the roof, and disposing of the waste. The waste removal company may be the contractor itself – called a “self-generator” – or they may contract the disposal out to another company. We are unsure what the case is here.)

The only requirements in this situation is that they comply with federal OSHA regulations as is specified here (for construction, for general). These OSHA regulations specify the required training contractor employees are supposed to undergo (search the page for “Employee Information and Training.”), and the specific instructions on proper handling of asbestos and other hazardous material.

We also spoke with a federal OSHA staffer today, who told us that the only way that they can determine if a violation occurred related to asbestos handling, is for a PRHS staff member to file a health and safety and/or whistleblower complaint. OSHA’s role is specifically to protect employee against employer, so they will only communicate with employees. While the complainer must reveal themselves to OSHA, their identity would be kept confidential.

OSHA also referred us to the “Building department” of the township in which the construction occurred. We left a message with Little Egg Harbor, but haven’t heard back.

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