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Boston Center Controllers' Lives Endangered By FAA Arrogance, Mismanagement, Coverup - (8/7/1997)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Boston Center should have been evacuated July 29 because of dangerous asbestos levels six times above the national standard, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Its executive vice president said, "FAA is bordering on criminal fraud at both Boston and Indianapolis air traffic control centers where asbestos leaks last week were ignored and then covered up - all to the detriment of controllers."

"Not only was Boston Center not evacuated as mandated in these recurring situations, but the Federal Aviation Administration Airways Facilities Management did not notify headquarters or employees until seven days after the fact," said Mike McNally, NATCA Executive Vice President.

"The FAA does not care whether controllers and any of the 500 employees at Boston Center drop dead tomorrow," McNally said. "It is not an exaggeration to say the FAA has turned its back on the men and women who are, quite literally, sacrificing their lives and health to keep the flying public in and around Boston safe. I could not be more outraged, disgusted and fed up with the continuing bottom line mentality at the FAA!

"It would be more humane if Airways Facilities Management in New England simply pulled out some guns and shot their employees, rather than slowly expose them to cancer-causing asbestos day in and day out," McNally said.

Since the 1980s, controllers, technicians, management and staff have suffered consequences of physical ailments - to the point of death - as a result of unabated asbestos and other microbiological bacteria. Asbestos has been a recurring theme, spanning at least four years, yet, the agency continues to act in an irresponsible fashion.

A contract employee left a hose running on ceiling tiles above the control room at Boston Center. Asbestos laden water dropped on the floor for hours, exposing 70 to 80 controllers to carcinogenic materials. Once the critical nature of asbestos contamination was announced, controllers donned protective hoods while staying at their work stations, separating hundreds of aircraft an hour. Controllers had no such defense the previous seven days when particles floated through the air and in their lungs unrestricted. Indianapolis Center employees also dealt with an asbestos leak six times above the national standard on June 22 - and twice since then - due to contractor errors.

"Again, the FAA continued to lie to controllers and their union about the seriousness of the problem to avoid political fallout," McNally said. "Asbestos is a nationwide issue. We've butt heads with callous FAA officials over similar problems at Washington Center in Leesburg, Va., and at Chicago Center in Aurora, Ill."

NATCA, members of Congress and even the FAA's own Air Traffic Management support efforts to reduce any contamination at Boston Center.

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