Florida DEP Investigating Asbestos Violations

Workers who are employed by a Lee County, Florida construction company say they were made to handle dangerous asbestos without protective gear and were ordered to illegally dump the material at a nearby lake.

According to an article in the Naples Daily News, employees and former employees of Posen Construction made sworn statements to county officials that they were threatened with losing their jobs if they refused to handle the dangerous material.

“If we question the instructions, there are plenty of people looking for truck driving jobs,” said truck driver Virginia Brown in a sworn statement taken in November.

Brown heard that from crew leader Linda Darnall, she said, who swore she got the instruction from her boss, Michael Schook.

“They’ve harassed the hell out of me,” said Darnall, who claimed she was terminated after she complained and went for lung X-rays and tests. “People are sick. People are being harassed. People are being fired. I am livid.”

Other Posen workers said they were instructed to cut up the asbestos pipe with saws and then crush them, releasing airborne fibers.

“There were lots of dust particles in the air,” said Jonathan Herman.

The workers maintain that they were offered no protective gear while dealing with the toxic material. Truck drivers who worked for Posen Construction claim they were ordered to dump the asbestos debris at a newly-created lake south of the new Alico Road near Highway 41, and that equipment operators then pushed the asbestos into the lake.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials confirmed that they are investigating the situation at this time. Warning letters were sent to Posen, Lee County and the Florida DOT before Christmas advising of possible violations of Clean Air Act laws and other laws governing the handling and disposal of asbestos.

“We have investigated and we have sent the warning letter,” DEP spokeswoman Audrey Wright said. “They have replied and asked for a meeting after the holidays.”

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