San Diego city workers have filed a lawsuit against the city after they were allegedly exposed to asbestos in their office for months. (10News.com)
The class-action lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in June 2019. It accuses high-level city officials of knowing about high levels of asbestos at 1010 Second Avenue, but they kept workers there because they did not want to pay for breaking the lease.
Also, the City of San Diego has continued to face accusations that it is exposing workers to asbestos in 2020. On Jan. 8, 2020, another complaint was filed with the city accusing it of creating more asbestos contamination in the previous Sempra Energy headquarters. It also was accused of manipulating air samples. This asbestos contamination allegedly caused them to expose workers to asbestos. (Sandiegouniontribune.com)
Jose Luis Guerrero, a contract engineer for the city, filed the complaint, stating that the city did not perform a complete asbestos removal at the site to save money. He claims in the complaint that rather than removing asbestos safely in the building, the city designed the project to only remove certain amounts of asbestos that might be encountered during the remodeling.
Workers Complained of Breathing Problems and Coughs
The office building underwent major renovations beginning in July 2017. Within a few weeks, office workers reported breathing issues, burning throats, and coughs. Court documents state that San Diego city officials ignored the complaints. They only agreed to vacate the building after the County Air Pollution Control District found asbestos on the property in January 2018.
Being exposed to asbestos over a long period can lead to serious health problems, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
One of the workers, Stephanie Teel, 39, said she was worried that she might get sick in 20 years; asbestos diseases usually have a long latency period of 20-50 years from the date of initial exposure.
Firefighters Saw Asbestos But City Officials Did Nothing
Firefighters in the building said they saw asbestos and informed city officials, but they allegedly refused to do anything. The City Attorney’s office has only said that it would respond to the complaints through the courts.
The San Diego mesothelioma attorney representing the 550 workers involved in the class-action lawsuit said the case is about protecting the health of the workers over the long term.
She told the media that the workers need to know that if they leave San Diego and come down with an asbestos-related disease, the city will take care of their financial needs.
The building owner said after the 2018 problem, it was working with regulatory agencies and tenants to address asbestos-related problems in the tower.
The city has stated that it takes workplace conditions of employees seriously and that is the reason that it took action to remove employees from the property once asbestos was discovered. Also, city employees were told to leave their equipment and personal belongings in the building to prevent more asbestos contamination. (MCall.com)
Complaint Also Accuses City of Jeopardizing Health at New Workplace
The complaint also accuses the city of San Diego of moving some workers to a building at the Naval Training Center in Liberty Station that also posed health risks.
The lawsuit states that the city disregarded possible dangers at the NTC and put employees who had been exposed to asbestos into another building with asbestos problems.