Billings Courthouse Plagued by Asbestos

For years, the Battin Federal Courthouse in Billings, Montana has been plagued by high levels of asbestos. After complaining about the situation but receiving no action from the federal government, Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg wants a congressional subcommittee to make a decision once and for all about the fate of the building.

According to a story aired on KTVQ-TV Billings, Rehberg contacted Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ranking Member Sam Graves of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management to determine what can be done about the asbestos-laden courthouse building.

Thus far, notes the story, the state’s General Services Administration (GSA) has recommended the building be destroyed and new courthouse space be leased. However, concerns as to whether the GSA can afford to lease a new space long-term have prevented Congress from approving any funds to move the project forward.

The story notes that the courthouse building has already been evacuated twice because of high levels of asbestos in the air – once in 2005 and once in 2006. In both instances, it is believed that asbestos dust was carried through the ventilation system and released in jury and court rooms on the upper floors. Those in the rooms may have inhaled toxic asbestos fibers, which can eventually cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma cancer.

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