Contractor blows whistle on asbestos-containing renovations

19 Jun 2017 by under News

Bauer Elementary ASBESTOS 2 100x100 Contractor blows whistle on asbestos containing renovations A Canadian contractor  has unwittingly cast himself as whistleblower on the government’s handling of renovations containing , in an ordeal he told the Vancouver Sun amounts to a “nightmare.”

General contractor Don Garrett was hired in 2008-2009 to work in Agassiz’s Kent Prison in British Columbia without any notice that the gaskets he and his team brushed and grinded contained asbestos. As they worked, dust swirled around him and his crew, Garrett told the news source, and no one wore any type of protection to decrease the risk of exposure.

“The tender documents made no mention of asbestos in the plumbing,” Garrett said. “Consequently, my crew and I unknowingly exposed ourselves and others to high concentrations of asbestos while removing and rebuilding plumbing valves that contained asbestos.”

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was once used for its heat resistance and flexibility in a number of construction materials, including insulation and gaskets. Strict protocols for handling asbestos now exist in a number of countries, including Canada, that require contractor notification if any of the materials they will be handling contain asbestos.

Garrett says he started to figure out the government’s ruse only when he tried to order replacement parts that were discontinued because they were made primarily with asbestos. It wasn’t until his appeal to Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion, who is required to intervene when public sector workers report government misconduct and are then punished for blowing the whistle on said misconduct, that the presence of asbestos was truly confirmed — more than two years after the crew began working at the maximum-security prison. In his letter, Dion identified a 2004 report that noted the prison contained asbestos, a document Garrett didn’t know existed until then. The report states “once the (asbestos) materials have been installed they are hidden from plain view and impossible to find without dismantling the system. Therefore … abatement procedures should be exercised when this material is disturbed or removed during service work.”

Garrett said CAT scans now show a spot in his lungs that needs further evaluation: “The result of this long nightmare is that my company has lost its bonding status and has been unofficially blacklisted. I was put out of business by the federal government after 30 years of contracting and, as a bonus, my lungs are loaded with asbestos.”

 

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