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State asbestos tests give Niagara County 'all clear'

by jmaloni
Fri, Jun 26th 2015 08:25 pm

PESH: 'No reason for concern about employee or public access'

By Christian W. Peck

Public Information Officer

Niagara County Public Information Office

Niagara County officials were advised late Thursday that state testing found "no reason for concern" about asbestos at a county office building in the Town of Lockport.

County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz advised county employees of the findings by the New York State Department of Labor's Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau in a memorandum released Friday afternoon.

In a detailed call with the county's risk management office, PESH Regional Supervising Safety and Health Inspector Darren Mrak stated re-testing of the Shaw Building site on June 11 confirmed the indications of May 29 testing: there are no airborne asbestos fibers or particulates present in the areas tested.

Surfaces in the Shaw Building also were found to be asbestos-free. Five vacuum dust tests conducted in Shaw hallways also came back negative, with the exception of what PESH Industrial Hygienist Daryl Ohdner, an asbestos expert and safety consultant, termed a "limited area of contamination" just outside the basement door threshold. Those areas were found to be free of airborne particulates.

PESH also noted a "white chalky substance" reported to the Department of Labor as asbestos by William Rutland, a mechanic employed by the county, was, in fact, an instant spill absorber similar to a product with the brand name Speedi Dri. Such products are frequently used to absorb oil, grease, antifreeze and solvent spills.

The county continues to restrict access to the Shaw Building basement and is working with a licensed asbestos consultant, 56 Services Inc., which is conducting an assessment and survey of the space, per PESH's recommendation. Additional asbestos testing by 56 Services conducted Tuesday also has come back negative.

Glatz's memorandum reads as follows:

"Late yesterday afternoon, June 25, Niagara County was contacted by the New York State Department of Labor's Public Employee Safety and Health ('PESH') Division concerning the agency's investigation and review of allegations of possible asbestos contamination at the Shaw Building. As maintained by Niagara County Administration, and as expected based on preliminary reports, PESH has concluded that there is 'no reason for concern about employee or public access' to this building.

"In that call, the County received the 'all clear' from PESH, in the form of a verbal report from Regional Supervising Safety and Health Inspector Darren Mrak to Niagara County Risk Management Director Jennifer R. Pitarresi and Confidential Assistant Marie Engert. In short, Mr. Mrak conveyed that June 11 re-testing confirmed initial testing conducted May 29 which showed that no airborne asbestos fibers were present in the public and employee areas tested.

"The testing also showed no migration of any asbestos fibers or other particulates had occurred as a result of the clutter removal project of a basement and crawl space in the facility during late May or any subsequent work at the site. Mr. Mrak also confirmed that all follow-up air testing conducted at the site proved negative for presence of airborne asbestos fibers or particulate matter.

"In addition, five vacuum dust tests of the hallways conducted on June 11 were negative, with the exception of what PESH Industrial Hygienist Daryl Ohdner, an asbestos expert and safety consultant, termed a 'limited area of contamination' just outside the basement door threshold. Mr. Ohdner said, again, testing showed nothing was airborne which is when asbestos can be a danger. Mr. Ohdner said even where surface testing was positive, airborne tests were all negative.

"Mr. Ohdner also said that PESH's investigation concluded that a 'white chalky substance' reported by the complainant (William Rutland) to be asbestos fibers or dust was instead an instant spill absorber (akin to 'Speedy Dry'), a common household product used to soak up moisture or condensation in basements or from water leaks.

"Mr. Mrak advised that a written report of PESH's findings would be forthcoming, after departmental review and approval, following a formal closing conference with the complainant and the County to review findings and recommendations. Both Mr. Ohdner and Mr. Mrak expressed that, despite allegations made to media and PESH, there is 'no reason to believe there is a hazard to anyone' using the public and employee areas of the Shaw Building, including the hallway.

"The County is following PESH's recommendation to restrict access to the basement/crawl space and the immediate area around the door, which is currently being monitored by a licensed, certified asbestos consultant, 56 Services, Inc. This consultant is conducting an assessment and survey of the space, as required.

"In a conference call today, the County learned that all independent air testing performed by this expert asbestos consultant on Tuesday, June 23 - after PESH testing - also proved negative for airborne asbestos fibers or particulates. In addition, 56 Services performed 'wipe test' of the wall, floor and door surfaces in the same area as PESH which, again, proves negative.

"Work continues on assessment and proper abatement and removal of the dumpster outside the Shaw Building, along with its contents. This work is expected to be completed by Monday, June 29.

"As the County has retained a licensed, certified asbestos consultant and contractor, who is in charge of the area, no unauthorized County personnel should be present or disturb the contractor. Ongoing air monitoring will be done by the contractor for the duration of the project.

"We will continue status updates, as necessary, until the project is completed."

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