Ga. reps support air traffic controllers in mold controversy

Tue, 10/16/2007 - 4:40pm
By: Ben Nelms

Georgia’s congressional delegation has entered the fray over alleged health problems at the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Atlanta Center in Hampton.

The Atlanta Center is the work site where hundreds of air traffic controllers monitoring high-altitude flights over much of the southeastern United States have reported unexplained illnesses they believe is caused by a fungus found by an environmental contractor in late September.

In an Oct. 12 letter to federal Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, delegation members cited their concern over the poor conditions at the center that they contend are affecting the health of employees while detrimentally impacting the safety and efficiency of the airspace for which controllers are responsible.

“We write today to express our concern regarding the conditions of the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center located in Hampton, Georgia,” the letter says.

“While this facility is distinguished as the busiest en route air traffic control center in the world, the working conditions within are unfortunately unacceptably poor and are having a detrimental impact on the ability of the controllers to do their job. We urge the Federal Aviation Administration to remedy the situation immediately,” the letter says.

“Controllers who should be concentrating on airplanes are instead distracted by a leaking roof and exposure to environmental dangers such as asbestos, mold and other air contaminants,” the letter says. “Furthermore, as the Atlanta Center is one of the busiest air traffic control facilities in the country, we remain significantly concerned of the potential impact of this continuing problem on the entire National Airspace System.”

Citing what was referred to as deplorable work conditions, Georgia’s elected officials also noted the decision last week by Peachtree Mechanical, Inc. to stop work by its subcontractors on the ventilation system at the Hampton facility. The decision came after quantities of the illness-causing fungus Scopulariopsis was found in areas surrounding the control room.

“It is particularly alarming that a contractor hired by the FAA to perform work at Atlanta Center has decided to issue a work stoppage due to the mold, citing the need to ‘act to protect the well-being and safety of all our employees.’ Yet, in the same building, air traffic controllers are required by FAA to report to work everyday, and for many controllers they are reporting to work for six-day work weeks,” the Oct. 12 letter said.

Also referenced in the letter was a January meeting with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and FAA En Route and Oceanic Services Director Rick Day.

Issues such as the Hampton facility’s leaking roof were addressed but controllers assert that little has been done since that time to sufficiently address the poor conditions at the Atlanta Center.

A July 24 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was also conducted, with conditions at the facility, such as controllers having to use umbrellas at their consoles to keep equipment dry, being explained again to FAA officials.

For their part, air traffic controllers are saying they hope that FAA will finally take the necessary steps to ensure that the work environment can be one free of health-related hazards.

National Air Traffic Controller’s Association (NATCA) local chapter President Calvin Phillips thanked all Georgia’s congressmen and senators who have come together and recognized the need to fix the deplorable working conditions of the world’s best air traffic controllers.

“The controllers of Atlanta Center would especially like to thank Congressman Westmoreland for his leadership in not only composing the letter but getting all delegates regardless of party affiliation to come together for this common goal,” Phillips said Tuesday.

Phillips further noted a sentiment expressed by many of the hundreds of air traffic controllers and contractors who populate the Atlanta Center.

“To have to ask every elected delegate in this state to implore the FAA to do the right thing by providing their employees with an environment free from possible electrocution by fixing a leaking roof, and free from highly toxic mold that has been making us sick for years, is shameful,” Phillips said. “It speaks directly to the lack of respect our employer has for us. I feel like we work in a federal sweat shop.”

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Submitted by alanman on Thu, 08/14/2008 - 10:43am.

Asbestos leaks are also important and I find it normal for traffic controllers to report this, there are still people unaware of the fact they they are exposed to asbestos risks in their own homes... Yet I don't think that traffic controllers should have these attributes, we need special teams for that.
Asbestos Attorney

Submitted by WaitingonPayDay on Thu, 10/18/2007 - 9:33am.

Here is a website that you can go to and see actual pictures of what the controllers are dealing with. Just look at the water. Would you drink such filth? Click on all 15 pictures to get a real idea of what is going on.

Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 10/17/2007 - 7:24am.

Now that congress, lawyers and the CDC is involved, eventually it will be cleaned up.

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