Improper handling of asbestos at Badger Army Ammunition Plant has placed the health of workers and contractors at risk, according to a formal Notice of Violation issued to the Army by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on October 10.  The violations were witnessed and videotaped by WDNR personnel visiting the site.

“On September 22, 2005 WDNR staff were at the Badger landfill and observed asbestos containing material being compacted without any cover soil,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of CSWAB.  “The WDNR permit requires at least three feet of soil over friable (easily crumbled) asbestos prior to compaction.”

“Landfill operators drove directly over asbestos-containing materials which can result in the uncontrolled release of asbestos fibers to the air and the environment,” Olah added.

CSWAB, a local environmental group that has been monitoring the cleanup at Badger for more than 15 years, has formally requested OSHA’s involvement in the matter.

“These violations place workers’ health at great risk,” Olah stressed.  “Inhalation exposure to asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining the abdominal cavity) and gastrointestinal cancers.”

The WDNR described the Army’s actions as “potentially dangerous to onsite personnel and contractors” and ordered the Army to submit a detailed plan within 30 days that describes how the Army will correct its site procedures and inspections.

The WDNR also found that friable asbestos-containing material was left uncovered at the end of the working day, violating requirements for daily soil cover.

In addition to cancer, chronic (long-term) exposure to asbestos in humans by inhalation can also result in a lung disease called asbestosis.  Asbestosis is characterized by shortness of breath and cough and may lead to severe impairment of respiratory function.

The landfill is located in the Township of Merrimac, west of the Weigand’s Bay area.