Asbestos was considered an ideal construction material in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to its high electrical resistance, fire retardant qualities and low cost of production. The problem with asbestos arises when the tiny fibers become airborne and ultimately penetrate lung tissue. Consequently, asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the subsequent Toxic Substances Control Act has forbidden most uses.
The New York City Housing Authority (the “NYCHA”) has suspended a $10.4 million asbestos removal project headed by Lakhi General Contracting Inc. following the arrest of a foreman on the project. The project involves roof, masonry restoration and asbestos abatement.
On June 23 of this year, a crew working for Lakhi was caught “failing to use water to wet down asbestos bricks before removal, failing to properly bag and seal broken down asbestos bricks, and leaving loose bricks of asbestos on scaffolds as said scaffolds were brought down,” according to a criminal complaint. That crew’s foreman has been charged with criminal nuisance.
According to a Staten Island Live article, the arrest was part of an “ongoing initiative” by the New York City Department of Investigation that saw four more workers charged with carrying forged safety cards. The NYCHA has hired an independent engineering firm to monitor asbestos work on the job site and plans to hire environmental inspectors for random audits in the future.