Legislation Strengthens Rules for Asbestos Abatement

Requires background checks, applies fees for unscrupulous contractors
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

LANSING — A bipartisan six-bill package was introduced today to address asbestos reporting violations and inspection requirements in the state of Michigan. This package comes in response to an extensive series of articles in the Detroit Free Press over the past few years regarding issues with asbestos abatement contracting and fines, and an audit released last August by the Office of the Auditor General on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Air Quality Division’s Asbestos Program. The audit found that the MDEQ did not have the resources to properly monitor building demolitions in which asbestos could be released, and failed to report some violations. The audit was also in agreement with the MDEQ that it lacked sufficient staffing levels to provide the oversight necessary to properly inspect sites, report on inspections and monitor violations.[1]

“Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma or various forms of cancer — serious illnesses, many of which may leave victims with life-threatening conditions to live with once they are diagnosed. Especially with the increased number of housing demolitions in Detroit and across our state, it is critical that we take appropriate steps to ensure asbestos abatement is done properly to protect the health of our neighbors and asbestos abatement workers,” said state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “We have a shared responsibility to protect our environment, and this will help us strike a better balance between addressing the blight in our neighborhoods, creating good jobs and maintaining the health of our communities.”

This bill package includes measures to ensure municipalities, residents and asbestos abatement workers are protected, as well as to ensure inspections are carried out safely. The bills included are:

  • House Bill 5607: Requires a local government or authority to perform a background check before contracting with an asbestos abatement contractor if that contractor meets certain regulations.  [Rep. Chang]
  • HB 5608: Creates the Asbestos Inspection Fund and requires MDEQ to charge a fee of $100 to operators and property owners who submit an asbestos notification or for MDEQ to conduct an inspection of the property. [State Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit)]
  • HB 5594: Amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to require annual reports on the sufficiency of the number of asbestos inspectors within MDEQ. [State Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant)]
  • HB 5595: Requires local government entities and public authorities that contract with asbestos abatement contractors or subcontractors on demolition projects to require those contractors to include disclosure of any state or federal environmental violations in the past five years to be submitted with the bid for the contract. [State Rep. Dave Maturen (R-Vicksburg)]
  • HB 5596: Allows a local government or public authority contracting with asbestos abatement contractors to withhold payment until they receive written and photographic verification that the company’s more than five violation notices related to environmental regulations in the past year were corrected. (State Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch)]
  • HB 5597: Prohibits the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration from reducing asbestos-related violation penalties by an amount or percentage that is greater than what is used at a federal level. (State Rep. Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Township)]

“These bills could make a difference for the people working in environments that expose them to asbestos, and I am grateful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle appreciate this grave importance,” Chang said. “I look forward to rewriting the rules together to better protect the health of our residents, asbestos abatement workers and our environment.”

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[1] Office of the Auditor General – Asbestos Program – MDEQ-AQD – Aug. 9, 2017