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Judge Orders Sonoma State University to Pay $2.9 Million in Penalties in Asbestos Case

A California judge has ordered Sonoma State University to pay more than $2.9 million in penalties for violations of occupational health and safety laws that took place between May 2013 and March 2015. During this time, 231 faculty members and staff worked in a campus building where the school’s environmental health and safety specialist raised concerns about worn or crumbling floor and ceiling tiles that were releasing carcinogenic asbestos fibers.

A full investigation into the handling of asbestos at Sonoma State was launched, which led to the $2.9 judgement against the school. Of the $2.9 million, around $725,000 will be dispersed among the 231 administrative assistants, teachers, and other university employees who worked in historic Stevenson Hall during the two-year period ending in 2015. The rest will go to state workplace enforcement and training regulators.

In addition to losing $2.9 million in the case, SSU spent around $3.5 million to take the case to trial and more cases are likely to follow. According to the health and safety specialist, Stevenson Hall isn’t the only building on campus with an asbestos problem. The specialist also warned his supervisors and officials about other campus buildings that are deteriorating and releasing asbestos fibers.

President of the CSU employees union at SSU hopes that the nearly $6.5 million case will “prompt schools throughout the 23-campus system to reevaluate their handling of asbestos,” reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “We would like to see a better response from the university instead of denial and shutting us out,” she said. “They need to open doors and welcome change in these old buildings.”

Asbestos is the only known cause of an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, so if you have been exposed to this toxic mineral, please see your doctor right away. Studies show that early diagnosis increases treatment options, which could greatly improve your chances of long-term survival.

 

Sources

Payne, Paul. "Sonoma State University to Pay $2.9 Million in Asbestos Case." Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The Press Democrat, 26 Sept. 2017. Web. 04 Oct. 2017.