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Asbestos Report Finds Poor Conditions For Workers

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Ernest Ojito presents the findings of his asbestos investigation Nov. 16.
Jessica Gould
Ernest Ojito presents the findings of his asbestos investigation Nov. 16.

After a year-long undercover investigation, a local college student is alleging safety violations at asbestos-abatement companies throughout the region. 

Montgomery College student Ernest Ojito says he started working construction a year ago to cover tuition costs and help support his family. He left the job determined to fight dangerous working conditions.

"I’m talking about improper disposal of lead. I’m talking about making workers do demos on walls with live circuits in them to cut corners," Ojito says. "I’m talking about little or no training for these workers and little or no protective equipment. And I’m talking about contamination all at the same time."

Ojito’s investigation -- outlined in a report by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition -- alleges violations at a half dozen companies in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (Ojito was hired by the coalition about six months into his investigation.)

Virginia Delegate Adam Ebbin (D) says it's time for action, and is calling for the state to take three steps.

"One is adequate enforcement of existing regulations. Secondly, adherence to federal safety requirements including proper masks and decontamination showers on site to wash away asbestos," Ebbin says. "And thirdly, we need more than just three inspectors in the entire commonwealth of Virginia. 

But Anthony Farella, president of Potomac Abatement, one of the companies named in the report,– says there's a safety inspector on every project. 

"Every safety procedure is followed," Farella says, adding he suspects the labor union has another mission in mind.  "We believe it is just a target of the non-union companies," he adds.

Labor coalition director Steve Lanning called Farella's claim outrageous, in a statement, and said the coalition is committed to protecting all workers. 

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