A Monday night hearing regarding ignored asbestos issues at Texas’ Kilgore College has sparked a possible federal investigation. Several Kilgore College employees, concerned about asbestos exposure while construction work continues at the school, state that their requests were previously brushed off. They’ve now sent in requests to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Longview News-Journal reports that a Monday night meeting at Kilgore College resulted in a heated debate as the asbestos concerns were brought up. While one employee indicated that he didn’t go to the college’s president about the issue because he was rebuffed when it was mentioned before, maintenance worker David Roberts told trustees at the meeting the he took his concerns to OSHA.
“Everything I said on my affidavit is true. I also sent a complaint regarding my affidavit to OSHA. I’m not here to put down Kilgore College. I love working for the college, and I’d like to continue working for the college, but when the higher-ups are pushing maintenance workers to do stuff that harms or kills them, we need to put a stop to it.”
In addition to Roberts, three other Kilgore College employees signed affidavits, including former maintenance worker James Buckley, and Dalton Smith, the school’s Physical Plant Coordinator. Another former worker, who chose not to be identified, also signed the affidavit. The written statements indicate that the employees were ordered by college administrators to partake in illegal job functions.
Smith also sent a copy of his affidavit to OSHA. He claims that he already went to several college administrators, complaining of the improper handling of asbestos in the school.
After the documents were written and signed, they were sent to both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (HHSC). Earlier this month, Roberts spoke about asbestos and how, although he enjoys his job, people are being placed in danger.
“The truth has to come out. If it’s not brought forth, it will never stop. I’ve prayed about this, and it’s been on my conscience. I love my job, and I’m not trying to make the college look bad, and I’m not trying to point fingers, but someone has got to try to get this to stop.”
After Monday’s meeting, college President Bill Holda opened up about the asbestos issue and explained why he is not looking into the claims.
“I have had several community members and employees asking me why I’m not investigating these allegations. I cannot insert myself into this with an open investigation going on. The only thing I can do is sit back and let them do their investigation. It’s not my role to go and ask the status of what they are doing.”
Texas Asbestos Laws
According to Texas state laws, handling of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials must be done by licensed professional. None of the workers at Kilgore College are licensed asbestos abatement professionals, yet they were allegedly told to not only tear down materials that contained asbestos, but to bury the toxic materials close to the school. In his affidavit, Roberts details the instructions given to him by administrators.
“I was told to remove asbestos on a boiler in the L.A. building between 1990 and 1999 by Leon Dodgen. Also, between the Old Main building, there was a cooling tower that had asbestos paneling on it. When we tore it down, it was hauled to Leon Dodgen’s farm.”
Leon Dogdin owns property near the school. Yet, when questioned, he declined to comment on the issue.
In addition to burying asbestos in areas near the school, Roberts also indicated that asbestos-containing materials were also buried on the school campus. Areas where the materials were reportedly buried include the school’s Firing and Driving Range, under the Rangerette Gym, and under chillers on the college’s east campus area.
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