Former Echo Lake Camp manager sues over alleged failure to address asbestos

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A former manager of Echo Lake Camp, operated by the city of Berkeley, filed a lawsuit against the city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, alleging that city officials failed to investigate or address exposure to asbestos in camp cabins.

The complaint, filed by former camp manager Jeffrey Bostelaar on Feb. 25, alleges that Bostelaar raised public safety concerns surrounding “cracking and peeling” asbestos to camp supervisors in August 2018. Bostelaar claims that city officials, in response, denied conducting an investigation into the alleged asbestos exposure because “it would look bad.” According to the complaint, Bostelaar was allegedly advised to move out of the cabin and into his van and wash his clothes, with no compensation provided.

Bostelaar is accusing the city of alleged negligence, willful failure to warn against asbestos exposure and dangerous condition of public property. Asbestos is a natural mineral — formerly used in building materials — that can cause cancer, among other diseases, if fibers are inhaled or ingested.

The complaint also alleges wrongful termination, stating that Bostelaar — who was fired from his position at Echo Lake Camp in August 2018 — was terminated “for no other reason than the fact that he had complained about asbestos in his cabin and in the cabin of others.”

Joel Siegal, the plaintiff’s attorney, said the case is still “in the early stage” and declined to comment on the complaint.

Echo Lake Camp is located near South Lake Tahoe and offers summer programs for children, adults and families. Berkeley’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department runs the camp, which has been operating since 1922 under a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Camp programs for the 2019 season are set to begin in June, with various programs offered until early September.

As a result of his alleged wrongful termination, Bostelaar claims in the complaint that he suffered emotional distress and anxiety, along with lost wages and benefits. He is suing the city for compensatory damages.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.