A tenant who recently complained to D.C. and federal authorities about a large quantity of cancer-causing asbestos material in the basement of his Naylor Gardens apartment building in Southeast Washington said yesterday the apartment manager has threatened to evict him in retaliation.
Norman K. Mattingly Jr. was notified last Friday by apartment manager Earl Gable that he had violated his lease by allowing "three to four" other persons to occupy his one-bedroom apartment. He was ordered to remedy the problem within 30 days or vacate the premises.
Mattingly said his girlfriend, Deborah Terry, is the only other person living in his apartment at 2806 Terrace Rd. SE. He contends he is being harrassed by Gable for having complained openly about the hazardous conditions in the basement.
"It's straight retaliation for what I did to him," Mattingly said. "He's trying to cover his tracks. Nobody else but my girlfriend and me lives there."
Gable said yesterday it was a coincidence that the letter was sent to Mattingly a few days after he had called in city inspectors and talked to reporters.
"The notice was going to go out even before that," Gable said. "He's got five people living in a one-bedroom apartment . . . . We've gotten complaints from other tenants in the area."
Mattingly, an employe of a Virginia heating and air conditioning firm, said he and Terry discovered the asbestos material in their basement last Monday while doing laundry.
About 30 cubic yards of insulation containing the asbestos was scattered throughout the property after a private plumbing contractor, A&J Plumbing, began installing a new system of pipes in the apartment building.
The asbestos material, which had been used to cover the old pipes, was left by workers on the basement floor and placed in trash receptacles outside the apartment building.
Mattingly said that he couldn't get the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials interested in the case. However, environmental control officials in the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs moved swiftly late last week to have the insulation material removed after experts conducted laboratory analyses to determine that it contained asbestos.
Under clean air legislation approved recently by the D.C. City Council, the city soon may assume responsibility from the EPA for regulating the handling of asbestos and other hazardous materials here. Even without that authority, city officials said, they concluded that they had no choice but to step in and get rid of the asbestos as quickly as possible.
"This is the first time we've had a flagrant-type problem like that where we can pinpoint who is responsible," Claude Jones, the department's chief of enforcement, said earlier this week.
The occupational safety office of the D.C. Department of Employment Services found traces of airborne fibers yesterday in the basements of three of four other apartment buildings in the complex -- at 2714, 2810 and 2811 Terrace Rd. SE.
However, in none of the cases did the fibers exceed federal air quality standards. The department didn't conduct an air quality test in the basement of Mattingly's apartment.
The department has recommended to Gable that he close off the areas where fibers were found and launch a cleanup operation, including a thorough vacuuming and wiping down and installation of exhaust fans.
If Gable declines to comply, the spokesman said, the city will ask OSHA officials to take action.