A number of laws in Georgia are intended to keep the public safe from asbestos exposure, but how much protection does a law provide when officials fail to enforce it?
According to a recent investigation conducted by 11Alive, an NBC affiliate, the state agency in charge of regulating asbestos in Georgia has failed to adequately perform their duty for years. Contractors are required by state law to hire licensed asbestos inspectors to survey, identify and remove any asbestos present in buildings before any demolition or renovations can begin. During the course of their investigation, 11Alive discovered that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hasn’t cited a single person in about seven years and rarely performs necessary checks to ensure that everyone is following the law.
A significant part of the issue is that Georgia lawmakers cut all funding to the asbestos abatement program in 2011 in an attempt to save some money after the economic recession. Before its funding was cut, state inspectors identified dozens of violations every year. According to the head of the DNR’s Land Protection Division Jeff Cown, the enforcement program’s duties were transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009.
While that may be partially true, EPA regulators only enforce these laws for commercial buildings – Georgia is still in charge of ensuring that residential homes follow regulations. In the past three years alone, Atlanta has issued over 6,700 permits to renovator or demolish older homes. The DNR admitted that it never verified whether or not contractors hired a licensed asbestos inspector before their work began, and only checks before construction starts if a member of the public files a complaint about potential violations.
“It’s an honor system at this point,” said attorney Rob Buck during an interview with 11Alive. “So, contractors that are well intentioned are releasing asbestos into homes where they are doing work whether they know it or not.”
The DNR stated that they have no intention to request that their funding is reinstated at the time the article was published.
Asbestos exposure is a serious problem that claims the lives of thousands of victims every year. At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our mesothelioma attorneys are committed to providing victims of asbestos exposure with the dedicated and knowledgeable legal representation they need to secure the compensation they deserve. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos, call us to speak with a member of our firm, or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation today.