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State has new authority to fight asbestos violations

Citations can now be issued for asbestos offenses

MADISON – Building owners, demolition contractors, asbestos abatement contractors, general contractors, excavators, landfill operators, fire departments and others who violate asbestos regulations in Wisconsin could be subject to citations under a new state authority that becomes effective Oct. 1, 2003.

The state Department of Natural Resources will be able to issue citations for violating any of three provisions of the state's asbestos law. These include: failing to notify the DNR of regulated demolition or renovation activities; failing to conduct an inspection prior to demolition or renovation; and not following asbestos landfill disposal requirements.

"This citation authority does not add new requirements," said Mark Davis, state asbestos coordinator with the DNR Bureau of Air Management. "It is simply a new enforcement tool.”

Previously, DNR staff had to refer violations to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for prosecution. While that will still be an option, Davis said, the new provision will allow DNR staff “to deal more efficiently with less egregious, but still significant, violations.”

First offenses will cost from $500 to $5,000 and a second or subsequent citation within five years doubles the penalty to $1,000 to $10,000. Under state law, money collected goes to the State School Fund.

Approved by the Legislature in July, the rule change will help protect workers, the public and the environment from the release of asbestos. Improperly handled asbestos can become airborne during demolition and renovation projects or at the landfill. The DNR receives an average of 1,900 demolition and renovation notifications per year, which staff estimates accounts for only 60 percent of regulated projects statewide.

Asbestos can cause cancer of the lungs, as well as the lining of the lungs and abdomen. No safe level of exposure has been determined. Asbestos fiber is found in thousands of building materials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began regulating asbestos in the 1970s.

More information is available online at the asbestos citation authority Web page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Davis – (608) 266-3658




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