MS. FLEEK WILLFULLY NEGLECTED HER DUTY BY IGNORING HISTORICAL FACTS TO THE PREVIOUS USAGE OF THE BURLINGTON HILL SITE, AND BY NOT APPLYING LEGISLATIVE STATUTES THAT WERE IN PLACE AT THE TIME SHE WAS CONDUCTING THE DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL PROCESS, SIMPLY PUT, IF MS. FLEEK HAD FOLLOWED THE LAW, THE BURLINGTON HILL DEVELOPMENT WOULD HAVE NEVER COME TO FRUITION, NOR WOULD THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION BELOW HAVE BEEN WRITTEN; AS FOLLOWS:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigators in late 2012, tested rocks near a housing development in Burlington, Skagit County, and found evidence of naturally occurring asbestos. Prolonged exposure to the substance found inside the rocks has been shown to cause lung cancer, and investigators recommended in a draft report that signs be posted “alerting people to the dangers of asbestos exposure.”
In the Burlington Hill EPA report dated March 6th, 2013 the last paragraph said it all, “Asbestos is a known, human carcinogen (EPA 1993) and also causes serious non-cancer disease in people who are exposed. As a result, people should limit their exposures to Asbestos that occurs naturally at the Burlington Hill site.”
Natural asbestos is often found in certain types of rocks and near fault zones. It can be released into the air from the rocks when they are broken or crushed, as often occurs during mining or development.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources says naturally occurring asbestos has been found in areas in the northern part of the state, and experts say it occurs throughout the United States.
In July of 2014, The Mayor of Burlington, Steve Sexton told the Skagit Valley Herald that his excuse why he didn’t convey the EPA’s findings to the many families that reside on the hill, was because a lawsuit has not been resolved yet, but did say the city would follow guidance of state and federal agencies in dealing with the site.
And he went on to say that, “It’s something we’ve been in contact with the EPA about, with the state, with the county, and we’re trying to trust their guidance,” Sexton said Monday. “They have expertise in this area that we and most local jurisdictions don’t.” But what we have concluded was that, other than the EPA, the Washington State Department of Health, the Skagit County Health Department, and the NW Clean air Agency, do not have special training in dealing with this matter.
The Washington State Department of Health, the Skagit County Health Department, and the NW Clean air Agency had spent 3 years, scrambling to gauge the public health risk, and was trying to prepare guidelines on how residents should live with this nuisance, including warnings not to move, or work with the material when it’s dry, to avoid stirring up asbestos.
After the Associated Press article in 2014, many residence had asked questions, like, “How are we going to be able explain this to friends that come to visit,” or “How do you explain this to your children that play all over the hill.” And “Would if you need to sell your home?” “Is the City of Burlington expecting the residents of the Burlington Hill development to sit here and hold our breath until something gets done?” We are now obligated to a full disclosure. Many residence do not want to live on Burlington Hill.
These residence were learning that Asbestosis, is an incurable disease caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers that scars the lungs and slowly starves them of air. This potential exposure and or contamination has frayed nerves in the people that reside on the hill and has further eroded confidence in the city of Burlington's government not adhering to their own regulatory policies.
The residence have stated that the City of Burlington has a legal obligation to make this right, as well as a moral obligation to the residences of Burlington Hill. City attorney Scott Thomas in a written declaration, felt the city they had no obligation to the homeowners on the hill, and played down the potential for a health threat from the material; he stated as follows:
“The City has learned that the possibility of asbestos exposure is very small, and the risk of health impacts may be minimal.”
“One clean air professional observed that the greatest risk from naturally occurring asbestos is typically higher blood pressure, due to unnecessary anxiety.” “However, it is this anxiety that deflates the value of the land owned…”
In June of 2014, Skagit County Health Department posted information about naturally occurring asbestos in the environmental health section of its website. It mentions the asbestos on Burlington Hill in one sentence, and provides links to other asbestos-related information.
Polly Dubbel, Skagit County Environmental Health Specialist, said residents weren’t notified because a (non-official) website already conveyed the presence of asbestos to homeowners of the Burlington Hill development.
Katie Skipper of the Northwest Clean Air Agency, which is responsible for enforcing air-pollution regulations in Skagit, Whatcom and Island counties, stated that the Burlington Hill lawsuit, helped the agency discuss best practices for permitting and public awareness.
Joanne Snarski from the State Department of Health, said state and local authorities can help developers and landowners be aware of areas where things like naturally occurring asbestos and other natural hazards can occur and work to mitigate hazards. “There’s a variety of naturally occurring issues that people live with on a regular basis,” she said, adding there’s a balancing act between public awareness and possibly overstating potential risks.
Joanne Snarski from the State Department of Health, said issuing specific directives to landowners can be difficult. “A lot of people are pretty uncomfortable with people telling you all the things you can and cannot do on their property,” Snarski said.
EPA investigators in their final report, said that, given the limited nature of the study at Burlington Hill, they couldn’t say what risks people exposed to the asbestos could face. For that, air samples that measure asbestos concentrations that people could breathe would be needed. But the investigators said, “EPA would caution people to refrain from disturbing the material” where the asbestos was found. Federal Agent Andy Smith also concluded that the EPA has no statutory authority to clean up naturally occurring asbestos.”
In the Associated Press article the regulators and local officials had expressed a complete lack of conscience, empathy, and remorse, for the resident of the Burlington Hill development. And it was clearly evident that these purportedly trained experts didn’t have the knowledge or desire to want to get involved.
Finally, the regulators and local officials have made no written effort to contact the residents of the Burlington Hill development, to explain how this development approval slip through the cracks, and what effect the NOA material could have on the public health now and in the future, because if they acknowledge the existence of, or take responsibility for, then they will have confirmed their obligation, and seal their fate as defined under RCW 7.48.120.
As of August 1, 2016, (3) years after the start of our investigation, and the completion of our final report, we can now conclude that the following regulators and local officials below, have provided no documentary evidence, nor have, or can, they provide us with any conclusive facts, that the families of the Burlington Hill development are residing in an environmentally safe place, nor can they state that the residents will not be permanently annoyed, nor can they state that Burlington Hill development will not endanger the safety, or health, in any way, or render a considerable number of persons insecure in life, from the use of their property, now and into the future, nor will they go on the record and state that the residents are safe from the man-made disturbance activities of the naturally occurring asbestos that exist throughout the Burlington Hill site.
Joanne Snarski, Washington State Department of Health
Polly Dubbel, Skagit County Environmental Health Specialist
Katie Skipper, Northwest Clean Air Agency
Scott Thomas, Previous City of Burlington attorney