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Asbestos Dangers Ignored at McNeil Island Prison

Supervisors ignored safety concerns raised by inmates at McNeil Island state prison and made them remove potentially deadly asbestos-laden tile with no protective equipment and without taking common precautions, state records say. As a result, at least 18 people - eight offenders, eight Department of Corrections employees who were working nearby and a flooring contractor's crew - were exposed to cancer-causing particles, according to a state Department of Labor and Industries case file.

In July, L&I levied a $28,400 fine and cited the prison for two "willful" and seven "serious" violations related to three projects done in late 2007.

Prison officials told L&I they thought they were doing the removal correctly and said that they didn't think the Puget Sound Clean Air Act's asbestos regulations applied to the work, according to records.

The Department of Corrections does not dispute the underlying facts of the case, said David Block, safety manager in the department's office of risk management.

But the safety shortcomings were "an irregular event and inconsistent with current DOC procedures and past practice," Block said.

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