Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Detroit Seeks to Disbar Asbestos Contractor for Repeat Violations

After nearly three years of repeated violations, the city of Detroit
is seeking legal action against an asbestos contractor.

A curious case of oversight in Detroit, Michigan has state and federal officials seeking to permanently disbar a local asbestos contractor. Contractor Jesse Brown was hired to demolish abandoned city properties - just a month after federal prosecutors accused him of exposing his workers and Detroit residents to asbestos.

According to the investigation, it wasn't the first time that Brown had been accused of negligence - Brown had received violation notices for at least 30 separate projects since 2013. His firm, Brown Environmental Construction, was issued $40,000 in fines from the state of Michigan.

Despite this, Brown was still hired by the city to demolish another 256 buildings before his removal from the project by Detroit city officials in July 2016. The suspension came after his last round of state violation notices - 13 properties across Detroit flagged for airborne asbestos - surfaced. Now, city officials tell the press that they seek to permanently disbar Brown if he bids on anymore jobs, and will arrest him if he attempts to work on anymore job sites.

The list of legal actions against Brown date back to 2013. Earlier that year, Brown Environmental Construction was hired to demolish an elementary school in Detroit. A report states that Brown failed to contain asbestos fibers during the project; state inspectors documented that asbestos dust covered the floors and was nearly a foot deep at the site. The project endangered both residents of the southwest Detroit neighborhood and Brown's own workers; asbestos is a known carcinogen that can cause respiratory illness.

Brown settled with the state of Michigan for $20,000, but subsequent findings at the elementary school spurred a federal investigation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Despite the active investigation, Brown still secured a city demolition project in 2014, which was also later flagged for asbestos health hazards. He admitted to a misdemeanor of negligent endangerment and was sentenced to two years of probation in June 2015. That same month, the city took away $1.65 million in business after the state of Michigan found more violations.

Yet, Brown managed to get another demolition from job from the city in 2016. Although he retained his builders and wrecking licenses, his asbestos abatement license had been suspended for at least a year. This project, too, was later cited for asbestos health violations; Brown's firm lost $900,000 in work.

State and city officials both call it "a real problem with oversight."

In July, the city of Detroit sent Brown a letter citing all of his violations found by the state of Michigan. A stop work order was issued for all properties Brown was working on. The criminal case against Brown is still pending.

To learn more about asbestos health hazards, visit the Mesothelioma Center's website. To receive your asbestos certification and learn more about state and federal asbestos standards, visit Zack Academy's asbestos homepage.

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