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San Diego Could Face Up to $80 Million in Fines Because of Firefighters’ Asbestos Exposure

Posted by Michael Throneberry | Sep 10, 2021

People working with or around asbestos are at high risk for asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma. Since asbestos was used widely in the 20th century in the construction industry, firefighters are among those at the highest risk for asbestos-related diseases. When an asbestos-containing building catches fire, asbestos fibers may be released into the air, putting firefighters at risk of asbestos-related diseases. It is also not uncommon for asbestos exposure to occur after a fire has been put out. Once a fire has been put out, asbestos exposure can occur during cleanup efforts.

Unfortunately, recent reports have revealed that asbestos not only poses a risk in burning buildings. Reports point to asbestos being present in places where firefighters and first responders train. In February 2019, a local San Diego news station obtained evidence from the Fire Department that showed the city's slow response in fixing a known asbestos problem at the fire academy. According to the documents, over the course of 10 years, many firefighters were exposed to lead and asbestos in walls, floors, and ceilings. A report aired by the news station claimed that the city minimized and failed to reveal the risks of asbestos and lead present in training facility buildings. One day after the local San Diego news station aired these concerns, the Air Pollution Control District began its own investigation. An APCD investigation report revealed that a district employee who watched the broadcast notified the APCD management the following day in the afternoon.

According to the APCD investigation, asbestos was present in the buildings since the city bought them. The Air Pollution Control District reported that even though the city received many warnings over the years, it failed to address the issue. Additionally, according to the APCD investigation, apart from firefighter trainees, children who used the buildings for camps were also exposed to asbestos. 

In August 2019, the Air Pollution Control District sent a settlement offer letter to the city. According to the offer letter, the city could face fines ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 a day for 160 days. So, on top of the risk of mesothelioma in San Diego firefighters, the city could face up to $80 million in fines. However, according to APCD, the city stands to pay this huge fine only if it is determined that the city acted recklessly.

In his statement, the president of San Diego City Firefighters IAFF Local 145, Jesse Conner, stated that San Diego City Firefighters are disappointed by the mishandling of asbestos at NTC. While speaking to the San Diego local news station, Jesse Conner said that he and his team are dedicated to;

  • Implementing protections to ensure such a thing never happens again,
  • Continuing to work with the city to notify every individual who was exposed to the toxic substance, and
  • Providing treatment for any firefighter who may become sick as a result of the exposure.

Arizona Mesothelioma Lawyers

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.

About the Author

Michael Throneberry

Attorney Michael Throneberry graduated from Purdue University with a Civil Engineering degree. He then served with the United States Army...

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