Toll Free: 888-891-2200

Virginia power-plant owner fined after asbestos investigation

Dominion Virginia Power was fined $12,600 for failing to notify contractors hired to remove asbestos at a nuclear power plant that they were at risk of exposure.


A state Department of Labor and Industry investigation found that Dominion did not tell workers at the Surry facility "the location and quantity of all asbestos … exposing contractors and subcontractors to asbestosis and mesothelioma," according to the Daily Press in Newport News.


Dominion also failed to properly label pipes containing asbestos, according to state reports obtained by the Daily Press under the Freedom of Information Act.


A Dominion spokesman said the company will appeal the fines.


The state began investigating a claim that workers had been exposed to asbestos in April. Workers said they were told by safety officials before work began that the project did not involve asbestos. However, after a worker cut into a pipe, traces of the carcinogen were found on the clothes of a dozen workers and in three work trailers, according to the state reports.


After a contractor complained the area might not be safe, the company suspended the repair work. Dominion hired a "team of experts" that determined that asbestos levels did not exceed federal work-safety standards and at no time was the safety of the workers or their families at risk.


However, Arthur Frank, chairman of Drexel University's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, told the Daily Press that any exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems.


Frank said Dominion could not be sure what contractors inhaled because it tested the air three days after the initial exposure was reported.


Asbestos was commonly used as an insulator and fire retardant in building materials. It is consider harmless if left alone. But when disturbed, microscopic fibers can enter the lungs and cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.


Most products that contained asbestos were banned and phased out of usage in the 1990s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA says there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.


The state’s investigation involved eight companies, six of which were found not at fault. Dominion is the second company faulted for its role in the incident. The contractor charged with handling asbestos, Hopewell-based Quality Specialties Inc., was fined $4,900 for not properly labeling the pipes. The company is appealing.


In a statement, Dominion said it “strongly denies the allegations in the citations and has filed a notice of contest with the Department of Labor & Industry."