Robert F. Farmer
411 Pinewood Dr. NE
Bremerton, WA 98310-2291
May 26, 1998
The Honorable Patty Murray
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-4704
|* I have deleted the last name of my neighbor to protect his privacy. As of August 25, 1998, I have not received a reply to this letter from Senator Patty Murray .|
Dear Senator Patty Murray,
This is in response to your letter dated April 28, 1998 and the letter dated April 16, 1998 from Captain C.J. Navin, Civil Engineer Corps, USN, addressing my concerns regarding the Hammerhead Crane lead exposure incident at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Since my email messages to you of October 15, 1997 and December 9, 1997, there have been new and very serious incidents. The affected Weststar Engineering, Inc. employee, Brian * is my neighbor. He was assaulted and could have been killed because he was perceived as a whistle blower and a nark . Over a two-day period (January 15-16, 1998), heavy objects from the Hammerhead Crane were dropped very near him (that could have killed him) and he was threatened with a knife by a co-worker. Brian * told me the following shortly after he arrived at my home after the incident:
Date: January 16, 1998, Time: between 1525 and 1600 (1540)
I was physically threatened by a co-worker named (deleted) with an open retractable orange knife (it looked like a retractable Stanley box knife) that he held up at his shoulder and said, "What are you doing here narking on us? I ought to cut your throat!" He also said, "What are you trying to do get a job with the ROICC?"
This occurred after one of the objects fell from the crane and Brian was sent up into the crane by his supervisor to tell the workers to come down. This company is a family operation and the person with the knife is the brother-in-law of Brians supervisor.
After this incident, Brian was extremely afraid to return to work for his own safety. He sought and obtained medical and professional job stress therapy, but he never was able to return to his job on this project. When he applied for unemployment, the Employment Security Department denied him benefits because of Weststar protests. Brian formally appealed. The hearing was before Administrative Law Judge William F. Lemke on April 22, 1998 in Seattle, Washington. The decision to deny unemployment was set aside when the judge ruled Brian * was removed from his job by what is called Constructive Discharge. The record of this hearing supported the claims of Brian * except for the knife as stated below:
"4. The employer has presented no direct evidence as to what occurred on the crane but has presented as Exhibit 13, the statement of the person the claimant alleged displayed a knife in a threatening way. That employee acknowledges having a knife and making statements about the claimant narking guys off, but denies that he displayed the knife in a threatening way."
There are other issues related to how this all came about and why the Navy Yard has almost no control of the contractors that are brought on site and supervised by the Resident Officer in charge of Construction (ROICC). I learned while talking personally to high ranking Naval Shipyard representatives on the day of the assault, that the Shipyard Commander is also frustrated by the system that puts contractors in his command under the ROICC Office. The results are many violations of EPA and OSHA laws and regulations. The effect is the Navy can contract out work cheaper than in-house because of the work is accomplished, as in this case, with almost total disregard for the environment and the health and safety of the workers or the community.
I also dispute some of this information provided to you in the letter from Captain C.J. Navin.
"Air monitoring was conducted in the general work area, PSNS Controlled Industrial
Area, during the course of the blasting operation. Results of the monitoring demonstrate
the effectiveness of the containment system. The size of the containment system and the
effects of adverse weather conditions necessitated the repair of tears to the system.
Weststar's work was suspended until repairs were completed. Additionally, potential
releases of lead containing dust were prevented by negative pressurization of the
containment system. Exhaust air was filtered using a high efficiency particulate filter.
Because of the negative air pressure, if a tear occurred in the containment system, air
was drawn into the enclosure instead of being able to escape to the surrounding
environment." In the late summer of 1997, Brian told me the containment system
was torn early in the work process and the blasting operation continued although the
containment could not possibly be pressurized. While working, he observed the grit
spreading throughout the area. I was told lead grit even spread to the top of a nearby
nuclear building. Brian was not the only person that had a high lead blood level. High
levels of lead poisoned many of the project workers. One of the side effects of lead
poisoning is irritability, which could have contributed to the knife incident. See the
Washington State SHARP Publication: Occupational Lead Exposure: An Alert for
Workers. I have it available for your convenience at this url:
I have these questions: How far did the lead pollution spread? Did it spread beyond the Hammerhead Crane to the rest of the Navy Yard, Sinclair Inlet, the downtown Bremerton area, and the transportation system including the Washington State Ferries? What are the long-term residual effects? How do incidents like this effect the economic development of Bremerton and Kitsap County?
I appreciate all of your efforts to investigate my concerns. Is it possible for you to request and make public the details of the fines OSHA cited Weststar Engineering, Inc.? I believe it is very important for the community to know about the breadth and extent of the lead pollution caused by this project. Too few of us know or understand the dangers of lead poisoning. Brian is still suffering from continuing body and bone pains. Nor has he been compensated for his lost wages or medical bills. Evidently, Weststar Engineering, Inc. is a self-insured workers compensation system employer.
Robert F. Farmer
Enclosed: Copies of email messages dated October 15, 1997 and December 9, 1997