Montana DEQ faces suit over failure to ensure safe asbestos handling

25 Oct 2017 by under News

04 DEQLogo WhiteBG Web 100x100 Montana DEQ faces suit over failure to ensure safe asbestos handlingThe state of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is facing a lawsuit claiming it has failed to ensure waste is safely handled and properly disposed.

The Montana Standard reports Ingraham Environmental of Butte, Montana, filed the petition in hopes of forcing DEQ to step up its enforcement. The suit claims as a result of DEQ’s “failure to manage asbestos waste … both at the level of inspection and at the entry to appropriate landfills, asbestos waste is regularly being dumped in open air in our landfills, endangering landfill workers, transporters, and anyone who breathes air in the area of these dumps,” according to the news source. The lack of enforcement endangers those who are working at or live near both construction or demolition sites and the landfills where asbestos is improperly handled.

Montana’s asbestos regulations are more stringent than federal regulations, but the primary responsibility for compliance with the laws is put on the building owner. The DEQ says landfill operators and building owners are accountable for the illegal asbestos dumping in open air landfills. Asbestos is considered a health risk when it is tampered with or left in places it could easily degrade because fibers could become airborne. Once airborne, the fibers can become inhaled or ingested and lead to cancers, including , which affects the lining of internal organs and has a near-100-percent mortality rate.

In its response, the DEQ argues “the petition does not cite any provision (of state law that) places on DEQ an enforcement duty with such precision and certainty that DEQ has no discretion in the matter,” according to the news source. The plaintiff’s attorney countered by asking who was responsible for enforcement if not the DEQ.

“We have the laws on the books,” Doug Ingraham of Ingraham Environmental says. “We think the rules protect us, but there’s no enforcement.”

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