Asbestos, black mold spur LD 1969, An Act to Protect State Workers from Carcinogens

Detail of the danger sign posted on an entrance to Camp Keyes, Augusta, as seen Jan. 9, 2020.

Jan. 22, 2020

Senator Claxton, Representative Martin and members of the Committee on State and Local Government, I’m Jeff McCabe, director of politics and legislation for the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union. We are a labor union representing over 12,000 Maine workers, including State of Maine employees.

We’re here today in support LD 1969, An Act to Protect State Workers from Exposure to Carcinogens, sponsored by State Representative Thom Harnett. While this bill is presented as a concept draft, the urgency of this bill is real. We feel at this point we have commitments from both the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Maine Department of Labor to work toward final language that will serve as important steps forward.

Right now the State of Maine is filled with older buildings that have been in decline for many years. The State of Maine lacks a comprehensive system for tracking on the potential health risks, repairs and risk zones in buildings. As a result, there is a pattern of short-term specific repairs with problems that are reported, but no real plan for the proactive work to prevent exposures. There also hasn’t been real education for workers about potential risks and how to spot risks and alert management.

We are focused mostly on issues around asbestos and black mold, but we also want you to know about the existence of other ongoing building and health issues, including drinking water issues. These issues affect Mainers who work both in and out of our bargaining units; exposure is not just limited to state employees.

LD 1969 would identify and catalog problem buildings and related testing. It would create new standards relating to contaminant levels and improve testing requirements. It would improve the ability of workers to raise and resolve safety concerns.

Through LD 1969, we are seeking the following actions:

1) Establishment of a system for tracking, monitoring, and transparent information about buildings and potential risk areas.

2) Adoption of recommended standards concerning black mold and adoption of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for black-mold enforcement for state workplaces.

3) Establishment of a safety committee, training, and transparent communication.

We think at this point the Committee on State and Local Government could direct DAFS, DOL and our union to work with the Committee analyst to develop needed language. Then perhaps the Committee could review that language in mid-February and vote on it.

Attached and below are several useful links, reports and memos around ongoing issues. The authors of the Labor Center-University of Massachusetts Amhert report could be available to come to a future work session. Thank you and I’d be glad to answer any questions.

The Failure of Asbestos Monitoring in Maine State Buildings: The Case for the Creation of a Tracking and Monitoring System, by Adam Caplan-Bricker and Tom Juravich, Labor Center-University of Massachusetts Amherst, January 22, 2020

Memo from Dick Thompson, Deputy Commissioner, DAFS, to Bureau of Real Estate Management, Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center (DDPC) Staff, July 31, 2019

News report: DHHS to close Biddeford office because of building’s poor condition, by Joe Lawlor, Portland Press Herald, May 1, 2019

News report: High asbestos levels found in state’s Cultural Building in Augusta; consultants say there’s no danger, by Sam Shepherd, Central Maine Newspapers, April 3, 2019

EPA Mold Guidelines
https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-remediation-schools-and-commercial-buildings-guide

News Articles
https://www.pressherald.com/2019/05/01/biddeford-dhhs-office-closes-due-to-flooding/

https://www.pressherald.com/2019/06/06/dhhs-opens-temporary-biddeford-office/

https://www.wabi.tv/content/news/High-asbestos-level-508131241.html

https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/local/asbestos-testing-underway-at-state-archives-dep-calls-danger-minimal/97-6d54612f-06cd-4015-8c99-f0d10b93bbe8

Massachusetts State Work
https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/12/03/asbestos-still-kills-thousands-of-americans-each-year-maura-healey-is-spearheading-an-effort-to-change-that

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/healthy-buildings-healthy-air-initiative

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/asbestos-in-schools

Updated: 01/23/2020 — 11:21 AM