SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – Some complaints are being raised in the North Bay about environmental and safety lapses of a contractor doing clean-up from the devastating fires in October.
The Army Corps of Engineers has received about a half dozen complaints regarding debris removal, with one in particular being singled out by name.
Ashbritt Incorporated is one of two primary contractors tasked with the job of cleaning up Sonoma County properties after the fire. But now the company has also become the center of concern for several Santa Rosa city officials.
“If from this point forward, people are being exposed to negative health consequences as a result of poor contracting, its actually our city that’s going to be on the hook for that and we will be paying the price for that down the road,” said ,” said Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Jack Tibbetts.
To date, the Florida-based company’s crews have cleared 123 properties. The other prime contractor on the job – ECC – has cleared 738.
Terrain and time tables have played a part in that, but the productivity isn’t even the largest concern officials have with Ashbritt; it’s the safety of the men and women on the job.
“So far, we’ve seen a mixed bag on the use of personal protective equipment. I’ve seen people not wearing them, and as a city official we want to see people wearing them when it’s required,” said Tibbetts.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it is aware of these complaints. As a result, CAL-Osha was on the ground Monday looking into them.
But the health of the people clearing the property isn’t the only concern. The health of the watershed is another.
“We promised that after the debris removal crews came in, they would be responsible for mitigating runoff and making sure that our water sheds were protected and there was source control around the sites. What we ended up seeing was a lot of didn’t have any,” explained Chris Grabill with Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities Watershed Task Force
That was during the rains last week. So this week, local officials are speaking out and hoping Ashbritt hears their concerns.
“That’s where it gets really personal. Youre dealing with people who have experience a lot of loss and a lot of trauma already, and you want to be able to promise them that they’ll be taken care of and the work will be done right and be done quickly too. You want to honor that promise,” said Grabill.
KPIX 5 first learned of the complaints on November 30 and has inquired with Ashbritt Incorporated about the safety and environmental issues. So far, the company has not responded to questions regarding those issues.