By Romero Matzalán
(MARINA DEL REY) -780,000 square feet of asbestos-containing material is being demolished with no protection for residents or workers, and no safe removal processes followed as required by California Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) regulation 1403, among others. Workers are seen tearing apart asbestos-laden Transite roof material with their bare hands, cranes are knocking down apartments, smashing the asbestos floor tiles and wall material, releasing thousands of micro fibers of asbestos in the air. The site manager for Driver Urban, Incorporated, David Hulber, when asked about why his company has not followed the extensive lawful procedures required by California law to prevent asbestos from going into the air replied with a laugh, “We know what we are supposed to do; but my Boss doesn’t want to spend the money.”
By money, he means what is known as legal and lawful remediation, or removal. This project, at 4242 Via Marina in Marina del Rey, the old Bar Harbor Apartments and Marina, is not being demolished legally in regards to asbestos. According to AQMD rule 1403 and others, including the California Health and Safety Code, 29515-29519, and numerous CAL-OSHA regulations, not only the residents in the area, but also the workers are supposed to be protected from asbestos dust and fibers. The workers are required to wear at all times special HazMat suits, gloves, and respirators, and all the asbestos-laden material must be disposed of in special containers, bags, and trucks. The asbestos is supposed to be removed using containment, special reverse-air HEPA filter systems, and is supposed to carried off and loaded onto trucks and disposed of at the right kind of landfill. This is not being done. The asbestos is being disposed of as quickly as possible into open-air trucks in violation of the law. Also, the trucks removing the asbestos are supposed to be following a planned safe route approved by the California Highway Patrol. Attempts by residents to prove the existence of such an approved route and permit have turned up nothing. Arrow Trucking, Inc., was seen carrying away asbestos-laden debris in an open-air truck, in clear violation of the law.
John Anderson, of AQMD, had visited the site and in a voicemail message stated that it contained “780,000 square feet of asbestos-laden material” and in reference to proper asbestos removal procedures, said “we trust the contractors to be on the honor system”. This means that the AQMD lets the contractors decide how much of the law they wish to follow regarding asbestos remediation procedures. Reports viewed submitted to the AQMD are inconsistent, and inaccurate with what is actually happening at the site. They appear to be fabricated so that all appears in compliance, but in actual practice, the site is loaded with asbestos-containing material (ACM) and presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM) that is not being handled or disposed of in accordance with the law. Los Angeles County holds the responsibility for issuing permits for construction, but no one has seen these, nor has anyone seen the supposed 300-page asbestos lab report that the contractor, Driver Urban, Inc., and its asbestos remediation subcontractor, USA Specialty, Inc., claims to have. John Anderson has stated that the existence of this report was claimed by David Hulber
of Driver Urban, Inc. on site to him, but when asked to produce this report, Mr. Hulber stated that he did not have it with him.
According to California law, any site that has more than 100 square feet of asbestos-containing material (ACM) or presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM)
that contains more than 1% asbestos must follow California’s strict laws regarding
removal and disposal for the health and safety of the general public in the area, and the
health and safety of the workers handling the material. Asbestos is classified by the EPA
as a hazardous material and must be handled as such. AQMD is supposed to enforce these laws.
According to Karen Selby, R.N., of the National Advocacy Center for Mesothelioma, there are three types of illness related to asbestos exposure. The first is ‘sick building syndrome”, where breathing of asbestos fibers causes the tiny breathing sacs in the lungs to get infected and irritated. The second is asbestosis, where the infection progresses, causing the tiny breathing sacs to develop scar tissue and not work properly,
and the final stage is mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, where the sacs will barely work at all. The person suffocates to death. According to Asbestos.com, a medical site related to asbestos related illnesses, even short-term exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma and death.
Construction and real estate development projects are big business in Venice, Marina del Rey, and the Southland. Our local, State and Federal governments owe it to us to make sure that the laws related to asbestos removal are followed properly and thoroughly to safeguard the public’s and workers’ health and safety. Within the next few weeks, another project right next to Bar Harbor will start, at the Villa del Mar Apartments and Marina, and there is no indication that any detailed plan has been proposed to remove the asbestos in that remodel and partial demolition. Finally, a few months after that, there will be a complete demolition of the Neptune Apartments and Marina, right across the street from Villa del Mar. In all of these projects, the public and construction workers have the right to insist that the current State, Federal and County laws be enforced regarding safe asbestos removal and demolition in order to safeguard our health and the air we breathe. Call Governor Brown at 1-916-445-4571 to stop this nightmare.