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July 18, 2019

State sues contractor over asbestos violations at Cedar Rapids school

Company could face penalty of $10,000 per day, per violation

DES MOINES — The State of Iowa has sued a Cedar Rapids company for asbestos-removal violations during renovations of Cedar Rapids Washington High School in 2014 and 2015.

The petition filed in Linn County District Court on Thursday alleges that Abatement Specialties failed to thoroughly inspect for and remove asbestos before renovation, failed to adequately wet the material, and failed to carefully lower it to the ground during removal. 

Abatement Specialties could face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 a day for each violation.

According to the petition, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources received an anonymous telephone complaint in June 2015 stating that Abatement Specialties left asbestos debris throughout the school.

A DNR environmental specialist, Tom Wuehr, visited the school in June and July and found several concerns. His investigation revealed both asbestos debris and airborne particles outside containment areas in the school while teachers, staff, students and construction workers were present, according to the lawsuit.

Upon Wuehr’s recommendation, the district closed Washington during the abatement and removed Abatement Specialties from the project. The DNR sent violation letters to the company and school district in July 2015. The matter was referred to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office in 2016.

In August 2017, the Cedar Rapids Community School District reached a consent decree with the state over the violations. As part of the settlement, the district produced a series of videos to inform and educate Iowa school officials on proper asbestos identification, mitigation and removal.

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