About 120 city of Austin employees were exposed to asbestos during 2016 airport office renovations, despite some workers voicing concerns that the potentially dangerous building material could cause contamination during construction, a KXAN investigation has uncovered.
The exposure happened during February and June 2016 floor renovations in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s Maintenance Complex Building, which is separate from the passenger terminals and not open to the public. The maintenance building contains offices and houses dozens of staff, including maintenance administrators, plumbers, carpenters, cleaners and police at the time, according to city records.
Three aviation maintenance workers, who spoke with KXAN on a condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, say the asbestos contamination may well have been avoided if their concerns were taken more seriously. Also, airport management may not have followed all recommended asbestos control procedures prior to renovating the offices.
“The people who run the airport put people in danger that they knew about, put them in hazardous areas and told them that they would be safe,” said one employee present for the February renovations. “I am concerned for everybody’s health who was in the building.”
In response to KXAN’s investigation, the city of Austin released a statement saying it is committed to the “health and safety of all employees,” and it is “continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
“The City of Austin and the Department of Aviation would never intentionally put its employees at risk,” according to the city’s June 16 prepared statement. “The City is committed to improving internal processes, training and communication to ensure our high standards are met for a safe working environment for all staff.”