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$173 Million Asbestos Repairs Completed in the Capitol

Our Boston mesothelioma lawyers realize that asbestos litigation is a commitment. washingtonmonument1.jpg

It’s rarely a swift process, despite the fact that the courts do realize that those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are working with borrowed time.

But for those who struggle with lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma, it’s not always about the money. It’s about justice and holding agencies accountable for negligence.

Such was the case with 10 Architect of the Capitol employees, federal government workers charged with the construction and preservation of our nation’s iconic monuments. These are structures such as the U.S. Capitol Building, the Senate Office Buildings, the House Office Buildings, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Capitol Visitor Center, the Library of Congress, the Capitol Grounds and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

These workers alleged that back in 2000, health and safety hazards were first discovered in the miles-long underground utility system that runs beneath Capitol Hill. These are the underground pipes and tunnels that are used to provide steam and chilled water to the federal facilities.

Some of those hazards included excessive heat, falling concrete – and asbestos.

Lab tests indeed determined that certain AOC workers were exposed to “extremely high” levels of asbestos.

There was even testimony on Capitol Hill that Congress hadn’t done enough to protect workers.

The workers who blew the whistle on those dangers suffered harassment and retaliation for speaking out. They later received an undisclosed settlement.

That agreement, between the federal Office of Compliance (OOC) and the AOC, stipulated that repairs to the tunnels would be completed within the next five years – with full abatement completed by June of 2012.

Congressional officials several times lamented that there wasn’t enough money to complete all of the work. Of course, if the alternative meant Congressional members would have to suffer no steam or chilled water to their facilities, certainly, they might have been persuaded to fix the problems sooner.

And in fact, the AOC did spend $173 million million to cover the repairs, and declared its obligation had been satisfied. Both agencies applauded one another for the completion of the work.

But the fact of the matter is, it took years for the agency to step up and take action, even after they knew the dangers to which they were exposing their workers.

A former supervisor at the AOC who now suffers lung diseases as a result of his exposure to asbestos, said it angers him to hear the agencies pat one another on the back.

The announcement, he says, is nothing but paperwork. His illness is something he lives with each day.

“After 15 years of ignoring health issues,” he told a Roll Call reporter, “You don’t settle with anybody.”

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Capitol’s $173 Million Asbestos Saga Ends After 13 Years, By Emma Dumain, Roll Call/The Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:
Study: Peritoneal Mesothelioma More Common in Non-Occupational Exposure, June 26, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog