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Who needs to clean up the asbestos?

Residents of a New Jersey township are gridlocked with local officials about the cleanup of a demolished hospital that reportedly poses an asbestos hazard. The site contains piles of construction debris, some of which contain asbestos according to EPA reports. The owner of the facility may face premises liability claims if nearby residents become sickened or injured. Asbestos is known to cause a deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma.

People living next to the site say they are angry and disappointed that they are not being protected from the environmental hazards. They say that the site is missing warning signs, and they often see children playing on the contaminated rubble. Although some residents were informed about the problem and had their homes tested for asbestos, others were ignored, they contend. Residents say that they want more protection from government officials, who they say are failing to adequately advocate for citizens' rights.

While some think the builder should clean up the asbestos, others say local government should deal with it. Still others contend that it should be done by the property owner. Township officials are working with the EPA to speed up the process, but the government agency hasn't yet developed a formal timeline for cleanup. Officials have also been stymied by legal maneuvers that have prevented them from accessing the hospital site.

Situations such as this can be difficult to navigate legally, considering the wide variety of hazardous waste laws that affect toxic sites. Additionally, it's important to note that only certified professionals can safely undertake such a task. But even though people know about the asbestos, no one is removing it. Who should be doing it? Who would be held responsible if a person gets sick from exposure to asbestos?

Determining liability for asbestos exposure can be very important. There will likely be lost wages, medical bills and other significant costs to consider if a person is affected by mesothelioma or other related illnesses. It may require legal assistance to determine who is responsible and what compensation is owed to the victim.

Source: CBS, "Riverside, NJ Residents Angry Over Asbestos At Old Hospital Site," Robin Rieger, March 6, 2012

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