Arkansas city receives administrative order after alleged safety violations

The city of Pine Bluff used a prisoner re-entry program for demolition projects without providing proper asbestos safety precautions.

February 15, 2017
CDR Staff
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a consent administrative order against the city of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, over a demolition program that employed parolees and prisoners after it was shut down for regulation violations last year, a report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says. If violations occur in future demolition projects, the city will be required to pay $12,000.

Arkansas Community Correction was heading a demolition project for the city called Mulligan Road, the first of the city’s re-entry programs employing prisoners and parolees on teams, the report says. The project’s goal was to demolish several dilapidated building with asbestos and partially used state grants for funding.

The order came after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its findings from a July 2016 investigation stating that the crew members had not received asbestos training, were not wearing protective clothing and there was no written respiratory protection program. Other violations included not always monitoring for asbestos and hiring a supervisor who did not have the training required to supervise the job. According to the report, the project was shut down after the EPA’s findings.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality also determined the city did not properly dispose of demolition debris in accordance with state solid waste regulations in 2016.

The order states the rules Pine Bluff must follow in a memorandum of understanding, but according to the report, the state and city do not agree on what the memorandum is. City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the memorandum has not yet been signed or negotiated because city leaders plan to meet with department officials to discuss how to resume the demolition project. A new memorandum with new regulations would be signed after the discussion. Department spokesperson Kelly Robinson said in the report that the memorandum was signed in August 2015 and states that one house per city block can be demolished per year and the structure must be sprayed with water to prevent asbestos particles to become airborne. 

The EPA has not issued any enforcement actions in the case, and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has not issued any enforcement actions against the re-entry program, the report says.

Arkansas Community Correction has no intentions of continuing with the demolition project, according to the report, and will operate like a normal re-entry program that secures parolees jobs at restaurants and other places of employment. The city intends to resume its demolitions.