A construction worker from New Hampshire’s Eversource Schiller Power Station filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in mid-June, claiming that he was exposed to both hazardous asbestos and mercury while working at the plant, which is located in Portsmouth.
The individual, a sub-contractor for Manafort Brothers Incorporated, claimed in a letter written last week that “employees are not adequately protected while removing material containing asbestos and mercury.”
“We have not determined whether the hazards, as alleged, exist at your workplace and we do not intend to conduct an inspection at this time,” said the letter from area OSHA director, Rosemarie Cole. “However, since allegations of violations and/or hazards have been made, we request that you immediately investigate the alleged conditions and make any necessary corrections or modifications.”
The power company had hired Manafort to dismantle equipment at the power station that was no longer in use.
“This project is related to the process of selling its generating facilities, and has been approved and authorized by the N.H. Public Utilities Commission,” read a statement from Eversource.
“The work was taking place within a sealed, contained zone. Eversource was made aware by Manafort that … OSHA received an anonymous complaint regarding the potential of mercury and asbestos exposure, and that one of Manafort’s employees had also voiced concerns.”
The work has now been halted, the statement also notes, and there is no plan for it to re-start until all contamination issues have been addressed.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that exposure to high levels of mercury can affect brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs, as well as an individual’s immune system.
The amount of exposure, of course, comes into play as does the type of exposure (skin contact, inhaling, etc.). Similarly, breathing in asbestos fibers could cause the eventual formation of tumors in the pleural cavity or elsewhere, resulting in a diagnosis of mesothelioma cancer, which can take up to 40 or more years to develop.
The company appears unconcerned at this time, stating that they do not foresee any cases of mercury poisoning or asbestos exposure.
However, employees remain uncertain as to what will transpire in the future if they inhaled asbestos. Chances are they may be regularly monitored for any adverse symptoms.
The gentleman that filed the complaint has already had testing completed at a local hospital, with results showing an elevated level of mercury in his body.