PINE BLUFF (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has issued an order against the city of Pine Bluff and its parolee- and prison-labor demolition program that was shut down last year after the city failed to protect workers from possible asbestos exposure.
The city will have to pay a fine of $12,000 if it doesn’t follow the consent administrative order’s rules in future demolition projects. Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh signed the order Friday that says the City Council has pre-approved a payment of $12,000 in case of a fine.
Parolees and prisoners worked on a city project that sought to demolish dozens of buildings believed to have asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later released findings that the city wasn’t sufficiently protecting workers from possible asbestos. The agency’s discovery led to the project shutting down.
Now, the city is planning to discuss with the department how to resume its demolition project. A new memorandum of understanding with new rules will be signed, said Robinson.
Community Correction spokeswoman Dina Tyler said while the city may have plans to resume the project, Arkansas Community Correction doesn’t plan to continue participating.
"The demolition project is dead and gone," Tyler said.
The project was part of a re-entry program that employed prisoners and parolees on teams. The Arkansas Community Correction said it will continue its program, but it will help place individuals at restaurants and other workplaces.
According to Robinson, the department hasn’t received reports of worker illnesses.