Originally created 08/06/99

Area child care center to pay asbestos fine



The owners of an Augusta child care business will pay $3,000 in fines involving violations of state laws governing disposal of asbestos, a carcinogen often found in older buildings.

State regulators inspected Childcare Network Inc.'s building at 2401 Walton Way on May 19, two days after a complaint about the asbestos was filed with Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, according to a consent order signed by EPD Director Harold Reheis.

The inspectors found renovations under way at the site that did not comply with laws requiring a licensed asbestos abatement contractor be retained to remove the material, the order said.

Childcare Network also failed to obey regulations governing the disposal of asbestos residue, which must be properly packed, labeled and sent to a licensed landfill.

Delores Syms, director of the 130-child facility, said Thursday the building has since been thoroughly cleaned and tested, and found to be in compliance and safe. "It's a beautiful building now," she said.

In addition to paying $3,000 in fines, the Columbus, Ga.-based parent company, through its president, Jim Loudermilk, also agreed to:

Provide asbestos awareness training for employees.

Hire licensed asbestos contractors for any future renovations.

Hire a licensed asbestos contractor to vacuum the premises and clean all surface areas.

Perform air quality tests to ensure the level of asbestos particles are within guidelines.

Asbestos was commonly used for insulation and fireproofing until its health dangers became known decades ago.

Long-term exposure to high levels of asbestos is a proven cause of cancer. But its effects on people who breathe moderate amounts over shorter periods -- such as people who work in contaminated buildings -- remains under debate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's position is that members of the public exposed to low levels of asbestos may have an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung membranes.

The EPA also has said those risks are usually small and difficult to measure.

Robert Pavey covers environmental issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.