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Niagara County: State closes out asbestos investigation

by jmaloni

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Fri, Jul 10th 2015 04:25 pm

PESH, county working to resolve minor "performance" infractions

Niagara County Public Information Officer Christian W. Peck issued the following statement Thursday detailing the outcome of a two-hour-long closing conference with state employee safety investigators reviewing a complaint by the head of the local AFSCME union, William Rutland, alleging county and welfare workers had been exposed to asbestos:

"Thursday morning, the New York State Department of Labor's Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH) conducted a closing conference with leaders of Niagara County's government, along with representatives of both the CSEA and AFSCME unions, to discuss findings of their investigation of a recent complaint of alleged asbestos exposure of maintenance staff at the County's Shaw Building. During that conference, PESH reiterated that air quality testing had repeatedly indicated a negative result for airborne asbestos fibers and that surface testing of employee workspaces had also indicated a negative result. As the County has repeatedly stated, the only positive indication for asbestos came in one very small and isolated surface test of the area immediately adjacent to a door-sill.

"PESH ultimately concluded there was no airborne asbestos or current health risk, and asbestos materials present or presumed were largely contained. They also agreed all current signs are appropriate for the current period prior to the abatement deadline. PESH also approved assessment steps being taken and permit and removal of dumpster contents under the guidance of a licensed, certified consultant and contractor.

"PESH indicated at the conference that it had identified six minor 'performance violations,' regarding lack of signs and labels, testing, identification, and employee notice of the presence or presumption of asbestos containing materials, employee asbestos awareness training, and one unrelated violation pertaining to the cover of an electrical panel box having been removed. The County has already substantially complied with the anticipated corrective measures to be recommended by PESH. These measures include assessment, restricting access to the crawlspace, containment of material, posting proper signage and labels, and employee notice and training, in coordination and under contract with 56 Services, Inc., the licensed asbestos contractor hired by the county in response to the PESH complaint. We await PESH's final report after it is approved by Albany. A 30-45 day abatement period from the date of report issuance was cooperatively discussed by county officials and PESH with the county confident of being fully compliant by that deadline. Access to the maintenance crawlspace under the Shaw Building, the area of concern for the PESH investigation, remains restricted and controlled by the licensed asbestos contractor.

"Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz extends his appreciation to the PESH officials in attendance at this morning's conference, who have been working professionally and diligently with the County since the time of the recent complaint, to ensure employee and public safety as well as to preserve access for members of the public utilizing the services of the Public Health Department and Mental Health Department, both housed at the Shaw Facility."

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