Renovator sentenced for Colorado asbestos contamination

November 22nd, 2006

The crew chief in charge of asbestos removal at a Colorado high school has been sentenced to three months probation and six months in-home detention, and fined $40,000 for contaminating the building with asbestos. Joseph John Cannella had pleaded guilty to failing to follow state and federal regulations for removing asbestos during renovations at Fort Morgan High School.

In 1999, Cannella served as chief of a National Services Cleaning crew that was contracted to remodel the high school’s library. Part of this job entailed removing asbestos insulation that was in the walls of the library. But after Cannella and his team had completed their remodeling, Fort Morgan had to be closed several times because of high asbestos levels at the school.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment ordered the school closed in February 2000 in order to clean-up the asbestos contamination. During the Spring semester of that year, Fort Morgan students alternated days with students at a local middle school. After the asbestos clean-up was complete in Fall 2000, the high school students were able to return to the building.

Until the dangers of asbestos exposure were widely known, the mineral was once widely used as insulation in schools and other public buildings. Exposure to asbestos is now known to cause symptoms of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that attack the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Like Fort Morgan, many schools have been forced to close in recent years because of repairs or renovations that released the deadly asbestos fibers that had remained hidden in their walls for decades.

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