East Lansing to review wastewater treatment plant safety after lawsuit about mercury, asbestos

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EAST LANSING, Michigan — East Lansing officials plan to hire experts to conduct a safety review of a wastewater treatment plant where workers have filed a lawsuit alleging they were exposed to mercury and asbestos.

City manager George Lahanas said in a statement this week to the city council that East Lansing "can do better."

Eight current employees and one former worker sued the city in January, saying they were repeatedly exposed to mercury and asbestos and the city delayed notification of that exposure, the Lansing State Journal reported (http://on.lsj.com/1ALEJIZ ).

The employees allege that workers weren't told the results of a 2007 asbestos inspection that found "numerous" affected areas. Meanwhile, a mercury spill took place in the fall of 2013, but city officials weren't told about it until March 2014.

"Accidents of this nature do and will occur," Lahanas said in the statement. "Unfortunately, some mistakes were made, but we are confident that we have learned from the mistakes and have made all necessary corrections."

No injuries were reported from the spill and there was no detectable damage to the environment, Lahanas said. Testing of the flow from the plant to the Red Cedar River revealed no increased levels of mercury.

Lahanas said an internal investigation into the spill resulted in one supervisory employee leaving the city's employment. Two others, including the former Department of Public Works director and plant superintendent, left for other jobs following the investigation.

Asbestos frequently was used to insulate pipes. The law requires employers to post signs in locations where asbestos is present and train employees who work where asbestos could be disturbed.

"It appears that the survey may not have been properly shared with staff and the signage did not meet all ... expectations," Lahanas said.

Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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