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DEQ fines PMH $4,800

Prineville's Pioneer Memorial Hospital is being fined nearly $5,000 by the state for "endangering public health and the environment" by mismanaging asbestos removal and storage
Two remodeling projects performed by a contractor hired by Prineville's Pioneer Memorial Hospital will cost the hospital a bit more than expected. The state Department of Environmental Quality has levied a $4,800 fine against the hospital for the illegal removal and storing of asbestos-containing piping and pipe insulation.
   Asbestos piping and insulation removed during the remodeling projects was left in uncovered piles in the hospital's crawl spaces and attic, DEQ official discovered. State law requires licensed asbestos abatement contractors be used for all asbestos removal projects where public health may be endangered. PMH has, according to the DEQ, received previous warnings from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for asbestos management.
   As a result of these warnings, an environmental consultant was hired to help hospital staff identify and properly manage asbestos-containing materials. Responding to the DEQ fine, PMH officials were adamant about their compliance with safety procedures.
   With patient, staff and public safety being of the highest concern, PMH announced, a licensed abatement company had been hired to assist in handling the problem as soon as it was notified of the test results by the DEQ.
   At the same time, not content to treat only the areas indicated by the DEQ observations, PMH had patient care areas, staff areas and public access areas tested for the presence of the material by Steve Paulsen of Paulsen Environmental Consulting. Paulsen collected air samples in a variety of locations throughout the hospital campus. The results of these air sample tests were negative.
   Paulsen also conducted a complete survey of the hospital facility and formulated an Asbestos Management Plan specific to PMH. The hospital is following that plan. Further, PMH will send all Plant Services staff to asbestos awareness training in the next few months.
   All areas are now cleared of any loose material or are properly sealed in accordance with current standards.
   PMH considered it had successfully complied with the state's asbestos concerns by October of last year. "Once we knew about the incident, we acted as quickly and prudently as we could to correct the situation," stated Don Wee, executive director of PMH.
   Citing the highest concern With patient, staff and public safety, PMH reportedly spent over $43,000 to have the licensed environmental consultant treat or abate the areas specified, and to have Paulsen Environmental Consulting conduct air sample tests and devise a PMH-specific asbestos management plan for the future. "We went beyond what the DEQ investigated and found," Wee added. "Fortunately, the air samples came back negative, and we have taken the additional steps necessary to maintain and ensure that we have a safe environment."
   The hospital was notified of a fine of $4,800 just prior to the end of December. PMH officials are determining if the fine will be appealed.