Firms fined $379K for Seattle asbestos violations

SEATTLE -- Two asbestos removal firms were fined $379,100 by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for failing to remove a large quantity of asbestos from a demolition site in Seattle even after the companies had certified that they had, says the agency.

According to the citations obtained by KOMO 4 News, the firms were accused of 19 "willful and serious" violations of strict rules to keep workers and the public protected from the airborne cancer-causing particles that were commonly used in ceilings, walls and floorings before it was banned.

The documents explained "willful and serious" means "intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to" the rules. Some of the violations were paperwork infractions, while others were based on asbestos debris left about the construction site at 3924 Linden Avenue North. A new four-story apartment building now stands on the property.

L&I said in the documents that Partners Construction of Bonney Lake and Asbestos Construction Management of Federal Way were found to have left behind a large amount of asbestos last summer from 5,400 square feet of "popcorn" ceiling, as well as flooring even after they had certified to the apartment building owner that all the asbestos had been removed.

Neighbors and other contractors said the debris pile remained on site while L&I inspectors investigated and ultimately made sure all the asbestos had been removed.

L&I says it got a tip from an employee.

At the home registered to Partners Construction in Federal Way, a man identifying himself as Dan Murray answered the knock on the door.

He said the allegations aren't true and blamed the whole thing on an ex employee. He did, however, admit that L&I officials found asbestos, but he said it was set to be removed.

"They did. They did. We weren't done with the job," he said.

Murray also said they are appealing the fines.

Shortly after Partners Construction was found by L&I to have violated asbestos rules, the state de-certified it and effectively put it out of business. But L&I says a family member from the Partners Construction group created ACM and continued doing asbestos removal on the same demolition site, until L&I decertified it too.

"It was a huge surprise. I had no idea," said Mike Raven, who lives immediately next door, just 20 feet away.

"I grew up at a time when one of the schools I went to had asbestos issues," he said, "so I am familiar with some of the dangers and not pleased to hear about it next door."

L&I said in the citations that "failure to clean up asbestos debris after removal activities significantly increases the likelihood that employees and members of the public will be exposed."

Asbestos can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.