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Audit says asbestos inspection program under-resourced and under-performing

map of michigan w/ inspection details
Office of the Auditor General
Detailed locations and inspections completed for type II landfills as of September 30, 2016.

Michigan needs more asbestos inspectors but doesn’t have the funding to pay for them, according to the Legislature’s auditor general.

The audit released today says the asbestos program has fallen behind in inspections and follow-up reports on projects that require asbestos removal, as well as whether the cancer-causing fire retardant is properly disposed of in landfills. In some cases, the reports were cursory.

The state Department of Environmental Quality agreed with the findings, but says there’s a reason: too much work for the existing number of asbestos inspectors.

“We’ve seen in this state an increase in the amount of demolitions of blighted properties,” said the DEQ’s Melanie Brown. “We will need more resources to ensure that we are able to continue to address the need. And so that does mean, potentially, additional staffing. That does mean additional funding.”

Brown says cities in Michigan are getting more aggressive about tearing down old, abandoned buildings. The inspections are important because if asbestos removal and disposal are not done correctly, the public is at risk from cancer-causing fibers released into the air.

Brown says the DEQ is trying to fix the problems while working on funding ideas to present to the Legislature. The audit also recommends some type of new fee to pay for the program.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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