Dominion Virginia Power is appealing $12,600 in fines and disputing the claim last week by the Department of Labor and Industry that it exposed workers to dangerous asbestos fibers at its Surry Power Station.
Dominion was fined after an investigation by the state revealed asbestos particles were found on the clothes of 12 contract employees and in three on-site work trailers after a day of repairs at the aging nuclear power plant.
The investigation stemmed from complaints by workers back in April. The Labor and Industry report was obtained by the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, under the Freedom of Information Act.
Experts consider any amount of asbestos exposure to be a health hazard. An exposure can lead to mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis, lung cancer or a number of respiratory illnesses.
According to the state report, Dominion was faulted for failing to properly label the pipes that contained asbestos, and for failing to tell employees the location and quantity of asbestos where they were working.
Dominion almost immediately disputed the report, responding to the Daily Press on the same day the fines were revealed.
“We’re contesting this whole thing,” Dominion spokesperson Richard Zuercher told the Daily Press. “We have a disagreement with the state.”
A day later, Dominion issued another statement disputing the state’s report. “Dominion strongly denies the allegations in the citations and has filed a notice of contest with the Department of Labor & Industry,” it read.
According to the statement released by Dominion last week, asbestos has been removed from parts of the plant in 2009. And according to the report filed by the state, the Dominion employee who was overseeing the work by the subcontractors believed all the asbestos already had been removed.
The dispute originated from repairs in April that included replacing and cutting into pipes around the plant, sending the dust airborne and showering several workers. While asbestos was found in the air by inspectors, the amount did not exceed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, according to a Dominion spokesperson. The state concluded, though, that the air samples were taken too long after (three days) the employees had their initial exposure.
Also fined for its role in the incident was Quality Specialties, Inc., an abatement company that previously worked at the Surry Plant. Quality was fined for a failure to properly label the pipes containing asbestos. Abatement can include removal, encasing or encapsulating asbestos.
According to the Daily Press, both companies are scheduled to meet with state officials. The Daily Press also reported that at least some of the workers have been in contact with both doctors and lawyers concerning the asbestos exposure.