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State cites Stout for asbestos violations

By Sean Ryan

The University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie might appeal seven asbestos-removal violations stemming from campus projects in 2009.

The violations were issued by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which originally charged the university with 50 counts of asbestos violations after state inspections of UW-Stout projects in May and June. The department revised its inspection report from the projects and released the shorter list of citations Wednesday.

“We appreciate the efforts that the Department of Commerce took,” said Doug Mell, UW-Stout communications director. “That was a hard thing for them to do, which is to rescind a report.”

Nonetheless, Mell said, the university wants to meet with Commerce officials.

“We still think that there is some confusion or some difference of opinion over what happened with some of these citations,” he said, “and we want a chance to present that to the Department of Commerce.”

Commerce officials would not comment on the specifics of the case.
According to the Commerce citation report, asbestos violations occurred in projects in five university buildings.

Workers in the Jarvis Hall science and engineering building, according to the report, did not regularly inspect construction work. State inspectors found bags full of asbestos-containing material in a Jarvis Hall room that was reported to have been cleared.

Construction workers reportedly were required to work without proper protection against asbestos exposure. According to the report, the university let people use the Jarvis Hall elevator without testing it after it was used to transport debris that contained asbestos.

Workers in the Bowman Hall university building, according to the report, were directed to cut up water tanks that were insulated with asbestos-containing material. The workers reportedly were without respirators and other safety measures required by UW-Stout and state rules.

Mell said university officials still are reviewing the details of the report. He said he cannot comment on the specific citations with which UW-Stout disagrees.

Mell said meetings with the department are common when citations are issued. He said university officials “hope the Department of Commerce will be responsive.”

“We very well may be filing a formal appeal if there are points that we just don’t agree on,” Mell said.

Commerce’s decision this summer to revise the citation report drew protests from state employee organizations, such as the Wisconsin Science Professionals union, that accused the state of trying to cover up the violations. Gary Steffen, president of the Wisconsin Science Professionals, was unavailable for comment before deadline.

The most recent commerce report gives the university until Feb. 15 to solve the problems that led to the violations. The department ordered the university to train employees in asbestos safety, prevent untrained workers from handling asbestos, perform air monitoring on future projects and post warning signs outside rooms with materials that contain asbestos.

Mell said the university will satisfy the department’s orders.

“We take this seriously,” he said, “and we’re going to do the right thing.”

4 comments

  1. Doug, if the university wanted to do the right thing they would have listened to the warnings given nearly ago. If they wanted to do the right going forward they would put someone in charge of asbestos management that knows what they are doing and actually wants to do things correctly.

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