City of East Lansing Responds To Lawsuit From WWTP Employees

EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – The City of East Lansing responds to a lawsuit filed against them after workers from the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant say they’ve been exposed to mercury and asbestos.

A dangerous situation the workers’ attorney said, the city failed to fix in a timely manner.

We reported a few weeks ago that eight workers and one former employee of the Wastewater Treatment Plant are suing the City of East Lansing after they said they were exposed to mercury and asbestos

Their claim is that the city has known about the problem, but failed to properly inform them and fix it.

And while City Manager George Lahanas said the city is taking steps to improve safety, the attorney defending the nine workers says it could be too late.

“The appropriate actions were immediately taken and additional safety improvements have been implemented over the past year,” Lahanas said.

George Lahanas said the city is making strides to ensure the Wastewater Treatment Plant is safe for workers, even after last year’s mercury spill.

“Fortunately from our review of the relevant documentation we can conclude that no employee suffered any injury and there was no detectable damage to the environment,” Lahanas said in his statement.

But Neal Wilensky, who is the attorney representing the nine employees who filed the lawsuit, said because of the nature of the toxin it’s too soon to tell whether or not employee’s health was affected.

“So to say that everybody is fine.. I just think is just wrong,” Wilensky said. “It’s way too early to say that.”

As far as the asbestos problem goes, Lahanas said the Wastewater Treatment Plant does in fact have the toxin in areas including insulation around pipes.

However, Wilensky said it took the city too long to admit that.

“The law requires that when you have that friable asbestos where it’s not tightly wrapped and contained to be cleaned up and workers protected, that didn’t happen,” Wilensky said. “For not a day.. two days..three days..four days..7 years.”

But according to Lahanas, the city is taking care of the issue.

“While the law does not require the removal of asbestos it does require the employer to have a survey identifying the materials where the area is located. It appears that the survey may not have properly shared with staff and meet all MIOSHA expectations, appropriate training and signage has now occurred,” Lahanas said.

In his statement, Lahanas said the city will be working with an asbestos abatement firm to remove all areas where there is potential for employee contact. He said the work on this contract is nearly complete.

Meantime, the lawsuit is still pending before a judge in Ingham County Circuit Court.

6 News will of course continue to follow this story and bring you updates as we get them.

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