October 8, 2011

Buffalo NY Housing Project Turned Asbestos Nightmare

After state and city officials along with asbestos abatement contractors were indicted on 23 different felony charges a couple of months ago in Buffalo, New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slapping Buffalo’s Housing Authority with fines. 

The felony charges came after two companies were hired to remove asbestos from the abandoned towers of the housing project, Kensington Heights. The workers violated the federal Clean Air Act by improperly disposing of asbestos and falsified documents in the process. A state inspector and two City of Buffalo inspectors were included in the indictments. 

Now, two months later, new information makes Buffalo’s public housing authority complicit in the botched job. The allegations against the authority are similar to those that were brought upon the workers, but are administrative charges, not criminal charges. The authority is accused of violating the EPA's National Emission Standards for Asbestos and faces significant fines as a result – up to $25,000 per day, per violation. The EPA is issuing a compliance order to the Buffalo housing authority that includes orders for asbestos abatement for the towers followed by demolition. 

The vacant six towers of the Kensington Heights housing project is a 17-acre complex situated right next to a public park and close to three schools as well as a large hospital. Asbestos is a known and dangerous carcinogen. When people are exposed to asbestos, the tiny fibers are inhaled and become embedded in the lungs. Asbestos exposure leads to the development of many types of cancer including asbestosis