On January 8th, a complaint was filed accusing San Diego city officials claiming the city created new asbestos contaminations in the former Sempra Energy headquarters and manipulated air samples. This contamination caused them to knowingly expose workers to asbestos, which is a known cancer-causing carcinogen.
A city contract engineer, Jose Luis Guerrero, has filed a complaint stating the city did not do a complete asbestos removal to save money. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the complaint states, “Instead of first properly remediating asbestos in the building, respondent designed the project to utilize spot remediation of asbestos as it may be encountered during remodeling.”
In 2016, the City of San Diego signed a 20-year deal to use the Ash Street high rise for city offices with no remodeling other than a $10,000 power scrubbing. However, the city ended up occupying the building with almost 2,000 employees, rather than the original 800 employees agreed on leading to massive remodeling and 16 asbestos violations.
In early January, workers moved back into the building on the cities direction, even though the asbestos orders were still in place, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The city has acknowledged the violation and is aware there may be fines, but insists the building is safe to occupy.
The complaint further alleges that the city insisted Guerrero receive a termination in response. As of this writing, he remains on administrative leave.
This legal filing comes just months after at least 20 other San Diego workers filed a lawsuit last June. In this lawsuit, city workers allege the city intentionally exposed workers to asbestos then worked to conceal this information, according to ABC News KGTV.
The lawsuit alleges that city officials ignored complaints from employees who were getting sick due to renovations that included asbestos removal. This class-action lawsuit represents over 500 employees who had worked in the building at 1010 Second Ave. in San Diego.
Some of the earliest asbestos-related complaints date back to 2017 when construction began on renovating the City Hall-adjacent building known as the Executive Complex.
The lawsuit further states that officials shut down the building in late January 2018 and hundreds of city workers relocated to temporary offices in other downtown high rises and buildings across the community.
The suit is seeking punitive damages, medical insurance for life, regular cancer screenings and attorney fees resulting from the problems the exposure has caused.
According to Morning Call, the city issued a statement saying that protecting employee health is their top priority. The statement was released when the problems and allegations first began being reported.
The result, after numerous complaints filings, the city finally moved some of the workers from the Executive Complex to the Naval Training Center in Liberty station. This move further added more health complications to the employees.
With the city of San Diego currently facing multiple asbestos exposure lawsuits in the past as in addition to these and other current lawsuits, there is potential for more reports of exposure in the coming months and years.