ST. LOUIS (CN) – The City of St. Louis violated asbestos abatement standards during demolition of buildings for an expansion of Lambert St. Louis International Airport, a federal judge ruled. The plaintiffs’ attorney said this is the first time a city has been held liable for violating federal asbestos abatement standards.
U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson said St. Louis and airport officials violated federal regulations, even though their more cost effective methods were approved by St. Louis County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Jim Hecker, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it is the first time a city has been held liable for violating federal asbestos abatement standards.
The buildings, in the City of Bridgeton, were demolished using the “wet method,” which means contractors sprayed them with water to keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.
The method, approved by St. Louis County and the EPA, is five times faster and four times cheaper than removing asbestos by hand, but it violates federal regulations.
A group of Bridgeton residents who call themselves Families for Asbestos Compliance challenged the asbestos-removal technique in 2005, claiming their health was in jeopardy due to air and soil contamination.
Judge Jackson ruled that St. Louis County did not have the authority to approve demolition practices that are not allowed under federal guidelines, and that airport officials did not provide enough information to the EPA to allow it to approve the practice. Jackson found that violations had occurred on 99 homes. About 250 buildings were knocked down using the wet method.
The ruling does not address damages, but the plaintiffs are expected to file a civil suit seeking damages for air and soil contamination. Lambert International Airport is in St. Louis County, but is owned by St. Louis City. Bridgeton, which borders the airport, is 20 miles northwest of St. Louis.