For Immediate Release
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Mishandled Asbestos Spurs Criminal Complaint at Grand Teton
Public Health Imperiled by Park's Illegal Asbestos Removal, Transport and Storage
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should begin a criminal
investigation into serious asbestos-related violations by Grand Teton
National Park managers, according to a formal complaint filed today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Ignoring
warnings from its staff, the park stored dangerous friable asbestos in
areas of the park accessible to visitors and then had it illegally
shipped in open trucks across state lines for improper disposal.
In August 2001, the federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration cited the park for subjecting the workers who removed
2500 feet of asbestos-coated water pipe to unsafe and unhealthful
conditions such as shoveling the asbestos dust which peeled off the
pipes without protective equipment. The PEER complaint focuses on what
followed the OSHA citation, charging that park managers -
- Heaped the crumbling asbestos at local sites without any containment or means to protect park visitors from exposure;
- Dumped some loads onto campsite fire grates that were later distributed throughout the park; and
much of the materials into uncovered dump trucks that were driven
through Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a 300-mile trip to an open dump at Mud
Lake, Idaho, where it remains today.
PEER contends that by these actions park officials knowingly
violated both the Clean Air Act and the Comprehensive Emergency
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund), federal laws
that carry criminal penalties for such violations. Knowing violations
can bring fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years
under the Clean Air Act and three years under CERCLA. The organization
argues that the clear danger to the public and workers, as well as the
fact that the asbestos today still poses a hazard due to improper
disposal, merits treating these offenses as crimes.
"Grand Teton park managers showed an outrageous disregard for the
health of the workers and the public in how they carried out this
asbestos removal," state PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson who
filed the complaint. "National Park officials sometimes forget that
environmental laws apply to them as well."
PEER further maintains that the asbestos violations are not isolated
incidents of problems at Grand Teton, pointing to a 2008 Interior
Department Office of Inspector General audit criticized Grand Teton
facilities where park employees are subjected to "poor indoor air
quality" from vehicle exhaust vented directly into work spaces. PEER
had to sue the Inspector General under the Freedom of Information Act
to obtain the inspection records underlying this report and is looking
at other unsafe and unhealthful work conditions at Grand Teton that
have yet to be remedied.
"National parks have obligations that go beyond scenery and wildlife
- they also must avoid exposing their employees and visitors to
hazardous materials and toxic chemicals," added Erickson, noting that
the nomination of a new Director for the National Park Service is
pending in the Senate. "Hopefully, new leadership will bring new
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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.