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Archive for August, 2009

Asbestos Concerns Postpone Hospital Renovations

Monday, August 31st, 2009

At Canada’s McMaster University Medical Centre, work has been stopped three times since June due to allegations that workers have not been properly protected against asbestos. Workers had been upgrading the hospital’s air-handling units in parts of the building that are known to contain asbestos. Altogether, the hospital facility has 28 units that must be retrofitted. The project has been ongoing since November of 2007.

According to Labour Ministry spokesperson Bruce Skeaff, "The stop order isn’t because something was wrong," he said. "It’s because there is asbestos in the room surrounding (the unit) and because fibers may have gotten into the units because of the old equipment and parts being handled when removed."

Asbestos exposure can endanger a person’s health, as exposure to asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and other medical conditions.

With the air systems shut down for work, patients and staff at the hospital have had to endure temperatures that were so high that two nurses fell ill from the heat last week, according to Ontario Nurses’ Association president Linda Haslam-Stroud. Ms. Haslam-Stroud has not approved of the way Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), the corporation which runs the McMaster building, has dealt with the upgrade project. "They certainly aren’t considering the people they employ in their decision-making," she said.

Hospital spokesperson Lillian Badzioch told reporters that "there has been absolutely no asbestos-related shutdowns," and patients should not fear being exposed to asbestos. According to HHS vice-president of human resources Louise Taylor Green, the hospital had to stop work in order to meet with standards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act is met.

Ironically, Canada remains one of the largest exporters of asbestos.

Demolition Company Cited by Department of Natural Resources for Asbestos Violations

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Patrick Fee, owner of demolition company Red Rock CDT, alleges his competitors have falsely accused him of environmental violations while razing an old high school building in Chillicothe, Missouri a few months ago. Red Rock CDT won the demolition contract after submitting a low bid of $195,000. Since then, several anonymous complaints were lodged, allegedly from jealous competitors. The complaints caused Red Rock CDT to be investigated by state agencies, and ultimately caused the company to miss important deadlines.

“The demolition business is like any other business — it’s a dog-eat-dog world,” said Mr. Fee. “We’ve been called in so many times on things out there, it’s getting to be a harassment deal.”

However, Red Rock CDT has now been cited for a solid waste disposal infraction by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. This violation is on top of a previous one that occurred in May. In that instance, the DNR cited Red Rock for an asbestos removal violation.

Asbestos must be removed carefully, as exposure to the material can lead to mesothelioma or asbestosis. According to Steve Boone, an environmental specialist with the DNR, the violation was uncovered during a routine inspection. The general contractor on the site violated asbestos regulations by smashing asbestos-laden floor tiles into pieces that were smaller than was is acceptable by law.

Mr. Fee said that he wants to sit down with officials so that he can better understand this violation. “If the college boys want to sit down and try to figure it out, they can,” Mr. Fee said of the alleged discrepancies. “But they’re going to have to put it in terms that a country boy can understand.”

Carpet Underlay May Contain Asbestos Fibers, According to Reports

Friday, August 28th, 2009

A recent report out of Australia claims that carpet underlay made from recycled hessian bags may contain asbestos fibers, and homeowners who may rip up and remove their old carpet may be at risk of asbestos exposure.

Professor Bill Musk, a respiratory specialist, stated that carpet underlay made from hessian bags is “definitely potentially dangerous.”

Hessian – referred to as burlap in the United States – is comprised of jute and/or hemp and vegetable fibers. Recycled hessian bags were used as carpet underlay until the mid seventies.

The Western Australia Health Department investigated the claims and is encouraging homeowners to hire a professional to remove carpet, rather than attempt to do it themselves. While the health department is unsure of how many residences may contain carpet with asbestos underlay, they believe that the number could be in the “tens of thousands.”

“The main thing is to not disturb it,” said a health department spokesman.

If disturbed or damaged, asbestos-containing products can release asbestos fibers into the air, putting people at risk for inhalation. If inhaled, asbestos fibers – which have a claw-like structure – can cling to the pleural lining of the lungs [known as the mesothelium] for decades before an individual may begin to suffer from mesothelioma symptoms, such as chronic cough and difficulty breathing.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that has no known cure and is conclusively associated with previous asbestos exposure.

Professor Musk told reporters for an Australian television station that “several people” who he referred to as “mesothelioma victims” had been exposed to asbestos while ripping up and removing carpet.

In November of 2008, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released a report on asbestos and carpet, which warned contractors, installers, and homeowners of the dangers of ripping up carpet that has been glued to asbestos-containing floor tiles.

Homeless Shelter in Texas to Remain Open Despite Asbestos Concerns

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

A homeless shelter in Temple, Texas will be allowed to stay open, provided the buildings are brought up to code. Lawyers for the City of Temple and shelter Martha’s Kitchen met last Tuesday night in front of the Buildings and Standards Commission to debate the merits of keeping the shelter open.

After much negotiation and debate, the Commission voted to keep all five of the shelter’s buildings open. This is great news for the many homeless who rely on Martha’s Kitchen for shelter. Resident James Sebesta said, "I really, think that it’s really a good program, I’m glad to be here."

"Right now I’m in a bind, I need Martha’s Kitchen" Rick Iapage added.

In order to stay open, the shelter will have a brief window of less than five days to conduct an asbestos inspection, and take care of all "life-threatening problems". Within a 90-day window, the shelter is required to upgrade the bathrooms, floors, smoke alarms and electrical systems. Commission Chair Ron Kasberg explained "They’re basically just bringing it up to code, the same thing residents of any building in Temple has to be up to…The city is happy, I think Martha’s Kitchen is happy" Kasberg said.

Asbestos has long been suspected to be in the building, and once it has been found and the air quality tested, it will likely have to be removed. Asbestos exposure is linked to mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer that has no known cure.

When asked if he was happy with the outcome, Sebesta told reporters, "I sure am (happy), and if not where would a lot of people go?"

Cancer-Causing Asbestos Discovered During School Renovations

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Asbestos has been uncovered at several Lewiston-Porter district schools in the Niagara Valley region of New York State. These unexpected asbestos discoveries have slowed down the district’s $28 million capital project. However, workers have been working diligently, and it is expected that the scheduled date for completion later this month is still a reasonable goal. Asbestos must be removed before renovations or demolition under the law, as exposure to asbestos fibers may cause lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer, can kill within months and has no known cure.

Andy Schuler of Cannon Design gave a progress update during last Tuesday’s Lewiston-Porter Board of Education meeting. All major renovations are done, but touch-ups, cleaning, and various upgrades are still not completed. “We’re on target for substantial completion of all work by August 30,” Schuler reported.

The unforeseen costs and time that were dedicated to asbestos abatement earlier this month were problematic, he admitted, saying only that “It slowed us down,” but choosing not to reveal the costs of the asbestos abatement until the school board meeting next month. Now, the asbestos abatement work has been completed. The asbestos was uncovered within the walls inside the Intermediate School main office, under sinks and cabinets at the primary school and numerous locations inside the high school.

On Tuesday, the board also approved a list of other change orders that totaled $104,566. This included the costs for completing work such as painting and the installation of lighting. Schuler told the board the project has only used up $200,000 of the $560,000 contingency budget set up for change orders.

Naperville, IL High School Renovations Complete

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

In the suburbs of Chicago, Naperville Central High School students have resumed their classes. A lot of work was done to the school over the summer, and while it may not yet be cosmetically pretty, the school has been improved and made safer by the removal of asbestos and other upgrades. Exposure to asbestos can cause health problems like mesothelioma.

The cost of the entire renovation project is $87.7 million. With so much work to be done, students will find that some windows have been boarded up, and they will have to work on bare concrete floors. Tiles and carpeting were both removed over the summer during the asbestos abatement process. "Everything will be functional, you’ll be able to get to everything," said Ralph Weaver, director of facilities and construction. "(But) a lot of everything will be ugly."

Throughout the upcoming school year, workers will continue the project. Slated for the next round of work is the new cafeteria, as well as a three-story addition on the southeast corner of the building. A new drop-off area was installed to improve student safety. The synthetic turf for the new football stadium will be completely installed by October.

The original building dates back to 1950. Work began in May, and much still needs to be done. It is likely students will have to put up with the noise of construction and renovations for some time. "It’s those kinds of irritants they’ll have to put up with," Weaver said. "It’s like anything else – you have to put up with some bumpy things to get what you want."

Asbestos Removal in Ohio Could Cost School District $1 Million

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The Ohio School Facilities Commission says it will likely cost $1 million to demolish an aging school building. A staggering $800,000 of that money would be slated for the funding of asbestos removal. For the first time in 132 years, students will not be attending the Cortland, Ohio school that started life as Cortland High School and is now used to house the elementary school.

The school board has shut the building, and moved students into other buildings. The school’s future is uncertain, but it will likely be put up for sale in an auction be held this fall, according to Robert Wilson, Lakeview district superintendent. By law, the school district had to offer the building for sale first to any private schools in the district. However, there are none.

A couple of weeks ago, Mayor Curt Moll of Cortland toured the building with Don Wittman, city service director. The city did have plans to buy the building for use as a community and senior center. However, the city will not follow through with that plan. According to Moll, the building “wasn’t made to be anything but a school.”

Moll estimates that tearing down the building would cost between $500,000 and $1 million. Wilson says the number is closer to $1 million, according to an estimate generated by the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The asbestos present in the building is encapsulated. “You can sell it [the building] like it is, but if you demolish it, that’s where it gets difficult,” Wilson said.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to mesothelioma and other illnesses, and removal of the substance prior to demolition or renovations is required by law.

Funding for Asbestos Cleanup in Upstate NY Approved

Friday, August 21st, 2009

The Ithaca, New York Common Council has voted 7-2 in favor of reallocating funds to finance the remainder of the cleanup at the former Ithaca Gun site. $840,000 will be reallocated from other project funds to help clean up the site. Work on cleaning up the demolition debris was stalled when the developers ran out of money to pay the contractors. Due to surprises like unexpectedly long period of asbestos abatement and other cost overruns totaling nearly $1 million, the developers were forced to stop work at the site. Asbestos removal is important, and required by law, because asbestos exposure is linked to mesothelioma and other respiratory conditions.

Developer Frost Travis and project engineer Pete Grevelding was the subject of intense scrutiny at the meeting. The money for the project comes from a $2.3 million state Restore NY grant. That money was divided into two parcels. $1.46 million was designated for Phase 1, which included demolition and cleanup. The remaining $840,000 was intended for Phase 2 redevelopment. The factory has been demolished and asbestos removed, but much of the debris still needs to be removed from the site.

Alderman Dan Cogan was a little suspicious of the developer’s motives. "I find it a little strange that the projected cost overrun is exactly the amount of the Phase 2 Restore NY grant," he said. The developer responded that using that money was simply the fastest way to get the project completed.

Community Advisory Group member Walter Hang sent a letter to Edwin Lee, senior project manager for Loans and Grants with the New York State Development Corp., which is the organization that runs the Restore NY program. "I am incredulous that your agency could simply give $840,000 to a project that is more than a year overdue and nearly one million dollars over budget without conducting open and transparent due diligence on behalf of New York state taxpayers," he wrote.

WWII Veteran Dies Following Battle with Mesothelioma Cancer

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

The brave Allied troops that stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day were considered courageous heroes. Now, one of these brave World War II veterans has passed away due to mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. James Peacock was 86 years old when he passed away last July. Now, a coroner’s inquest has investigated the mesothelioma-related death.

York, England coroner Donald Coverdale presided over the inquest. It was revealed that Peacock worked after the war for Henry Foster Building Products, which later became Ferguson Industrial Holdings. A statement written by Peacock just before his death was read. “We used to take delivery of asbestos sheets measuring 8ft by 4ft. We usually had to get into the back of the truck to move the sheets. They were quite heavy and usually two of us would move them, but there was always quite a lot of dust,” the statement said. The statement also revealed that Peacock would leave work covered in asbestos dust, and would launder his work clothes at home.

A post-mortem examination revealed that at the time of his death, Peacock had 25,000 asbestos fibers per gram of lung tissue. This amount is considered fairly low, but is high enough to link his mesothelioma to his post-war work environment. Coroner Coverdale has recorded Peacock’s death as death by industrial disease.

Jennifer McNally, who is Mr. Peacock’s daughter, is now concerned that she and her family might have been exposed to asbestos as well. She remembers hugging him while he wore his work overalls. She plans to sue the insurers of the now-defunct Ferguson Industrial Holdings.

EPA awards $900,000 Brownfields Grant to Oklahoma City

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Oklahoma City has been awarded a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funds are designated for the Oklahoma City Brownfields program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The award from the EPA will go to the Brownfields Clean-up Revolving Loan Fund. This fund is used to finance the cleanup of sites contaminated by asbestos and other hazardous substances. Asbestos is linked to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, a chronic disease that affects the lining of the lungs and is sometimes fatal.

Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer. No cure exists, but surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and medications exist that can help to treat the disease. Surgical methods used to treat the disease include extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is a surgical technique that involves removing an entire lung, and part of the lining of the chest and pericardium. Another technique often used in later stages is pleurodesis. This surgery creates a scar that can help drain excess fluid from the lungs.

“Revolving loan funds are helpful when a development project needs a financial gap remedy to deal with environmental concerns,” Brownfields Coordinator Chris Varga said. “The low interest rates these public programs offer can assist developers in making deals work when bank financing won’t because the private sector considers a loan too risky or the interest rates are too high.”

Brownfields are properties designated by the EPA. A Brownfields site is a property that has been contaminated with environmental hazards like asbestos, lead, or PCBs, thereby rendering the property unusable for commercial or industrial purposes. Until the properties have been cleaned up, they are not suitable for redevelopment. The Brownfields program in Oklahoma City is designed to help facilitate the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties.