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January 19, 2018

Prosecutor in dust-up over asbestos threat in office

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) – Like the sands of time, dust regularly falls on offices of the Lake County prosecutor, who hopes it isn’t laced with asbestos.

“A number of our employees have been complaining about sinus problems and are very concerned,” Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Monday.

Forty-year-old asbestos fireproofing hangs above the heads of more than 40 of his deputy prosecutors and clerical support staff along with countless visitors.

He notes with irony the asbestos has been removed in the county jail, but not where his staff works.

County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said, “Unfortunately, there still is asbestos in the buildings, but as long as it’s not disturbed, it’s not hurting anybody.” Commissioners oversee county building maintenance.

Nevertheless, Carter said he and his employees presented the Board of Commissioners with a petition to address the problem when they were dramatically reminded of it two months ago following a water line that burst in their office, spraying their law library and evidence closet with sewage, The (Munster) Times reported (http://bit.ly/1AW7uIA ).

“The workmen who came in were all taped and dressed up like they were going into space. Our employees were walking around unprotected and wondering what they were being exposed to,” Carter said.

Scheub said, “Anytime anybody complains about air quality, we take that very seriously.” He said commissioners ordered Robert Rehder, superintendent of county government buildings, to hire a firm to test the air quality. “He told commissioners they found nothing detrimental to anybody’s health.”

Barb McConnell, one of Carter’s chief deputies, said, “Testing hasn’t been done in this office for years. We have had to tape plastic up in our victim-witness office so the stuff won’t fall on their desks. When there is movement upstairs, you can’t tell me that doesn’t disturb it.”

It’s no better for much of the floor above Carter’s office. Public Defender David Schneider said asbestos is above the heads of his staff. Senior Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez said three of the four original courtrooms there still have it. “So far, no one has gotten sick. We haven’t held a discussion about it, because out of sight, out of mind.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber with heat-insulating and fire-resistance properties that was commercially sprayed into buildings until the mid-1970s, when it was linked to lung cancer in people who inhaled large amounts.

It was present in all three original buildings of the county government center when they opened four decades ago. A federal court mandate prompted county officials to remove it from the jail in the late 1980s.

The state held the county in violation of occupational safety laws in 1990 after material was found on office floors in the courts building. Commissioners posted warnings that year forbidding employees from removing any drop-ceiling tiles except in a dire emergency.

Commissioners spent $12 million between 1993 and 2006 removing asbestos from public and office areas, but the program was halted short of the mark because of cost overruns that occurred when money was diverted to new carpeting, lighting fixtures and other non-asbestos spending.

There are no plans to address asbestos with any of the $12 million the county has just borrowed to address county government building maintenance, Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said Monday, but he said commissioners need a professional assessment of where asbestos remains, so it can be dealt with in future rehabilitation projects.

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Prosecutor in dust-up over asbestos threat in office

Prosecutor in dust-up over asbestos threat

CROWN POINT | Like the sands of time, dust regularly falls on offices of the Lake County prosecutor, who hopes it isn’t laced with asbestos.

“A number of our employees have been complaining about sinus problems and are very concerned,” Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Monday.

Forty-year-old asbestos fireproofing hangs above the heads of more than 40 of his deputy prosecutors and clerical support staff along with countless visitors.

He notes with irony the asbestos has been removed in the county jail, but not where his staff works.

County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said, “Unfortunately, there still is asbestos in the buildings, but as long as its not disturbed, it’s not hurting anybody.” Commissioners oversee county building maintenance.

Nevertheless, Carter said he and his employees presented the Board of Commissioners with a petition to address the problem when they were dramatically reminded of it two months ago following a water line that burst in their office, spraying their law library and evidence closet with sewage.

“The workmen who came in were all taped and dressed up like they were going into space. Our employees were walking around unprotected and wondering what they were being exposed to,” Carter said.

Scheub said, “Anytime anybody complains about air quality, we take that very seriously.” He said commissioners ordered Rober Rehder, superintendent of county government buildings, to hire a firm to test the air quality. “He told commissioners they found nothing detrimental to anybody’s health.”

Barb McConnell, one of Carter’s chief deputies, said, “Testing hasn’t been done in this office for years. We have had to tape plastic up in our victim-witness office so the stuff won’t fall on their desks. When there is movement upstairs, you can’t tell me that doesn’t disturb it.”

It’s no better for much of the floor above Carter’s office. Public Defender David Schneider said asbestos is above the heads of his staff. Senior Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez said three of the four original courtrooms there still have it. “So far, no one has gotten sick. We haven’t held a discussion about it, because out of sight, out of mind.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber with heat-insulating and fire-resistance properties that was commercially sprayed into buildings until the mid 1970s, when it was linked to lung cancer in persons who inhaled large amounts.

It was present in all three original buildings of the county government center when they opened four decades ago. A federal court mandate prompted county officials to remove it from the jail in the late 1980s.

The state held the county in violation of occupational safety laws in 1990 after material was found on office floors in the courts building. Commissioners posted warnings that year forbidding employees from removing any drop-ceiling tiles except in a dire emergency.

Commissioners spent $12 million between 1993 and 2006 removing asbestos from public and office areas, but the program was halted short of the mark because of cost overruns that occurred when money was diverted to new carpeting, lighting fixtures and other non-asbestos spending.

There are no plans to address asbestos with any of the $12 million the county has just borrowed to address county government building maintenance, Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said Monday, but he said commissioners need a professional assessment of where asbestos remains, so it can be dealt with in future rehabilitation projects.

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Prosecutor in dust-up over asbestos threat

Tough new ACT government rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe. Photo: Karleen Minney

The ACT government’s new rules for builders and asbestos handlers began to be introduced on Thursday, making formal training mandatory for those taking part on the territory’s mammoth battle with asbestos.

After a year of controversy over the handling of loose asbestos fibres in the capital’s 1021 Mr Fluffy homes, the new rules were endorsed in industry codes on Thursday after they were first announced in November.

The key changes close up more loopholes in the ACT laws, allowing unlicensed people to handle asbestos.

“In the other states and territories [in some specific cases] it can be dealt with by a ‘competent person’ and we have removed that and in our case it must be done by a licensed assessor,” Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

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Another of these loopholes is one that allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes from the start of 2015.

The old rules were designed so builders could deal with small jobs such as removing asbestos wallboard for bathroom renovations.

The removal of bonded asbestos will now have to be done by a licensed asbestos removalist.

The changes also lift the qualifications and training required to assess and remove asbestos.

Applicants for licences will have additional requirements to apply for and keep licences.

Mr McCabe said the introduction would improve worker protections. “I would call it Work Health and Safety regulations plus, we’ve taken the ones from around the country and strengthened them in some key areas largely because of our experiences with Mr Fluffy,” Mr McCabe said.

This also means that from January 1, the ACT was brought into line with other states and territories, making it easier for outside workers and companies to work in the ACT.

This is because the rules move asbestos handling to the Work Health and Safety Act which Mr McCabe said has now been harmonised around the country.

“So it brings our regulations and our code of practise in line, and it makes it easier for us to regulator assessors and removalists who come in from interstate,” he said.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Mick Gentleman is expected to endorse the two improved codes on Friday.

He said the codes would “provide practical advice” to industry on meeting higher asbestos standards.

“The new safety laws focus on equipping industry professionals, regulators and the community with the information, education and oversight needed to prevent people being exposed to asbestos,” Mr Gentleman said.

The crackdown on handling of asbestos in homes will come into play at various points from January 1.

Back in October Employment Minister Eric Abetz announced that the Commonwealth would lend the ACT government government $1 billion to to buy back and demolish the homes containing Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Two hundred homes are set to be demolished a year for the next five years from January 2015, and soft furnishings in houses will also have to be destroyed.

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Tough new ACT government rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

ACT News

Date

The ACT Government has moved to close a loophole that has allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes, a rule the Government says has been widely misunderstood and abused.

From January 1, any asbestos removal, including bonded asbestos sheeting, must be done by licensed asbestos removalists, who will now come under the control of Worksafe.

Builders were never allowed under the law to remove even 10-square-metres without asbestos training, but Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said the training requirement was the most widely flouted.

“The 10-square-metre rule is actually significantly misunderstood. Tradesmen think it means they can remove up to 10-square-metres of asbestos without controls, that’s not true,” he said.

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ACT Government bans builders from removing asbestos

Asbestos, mold threat keeps ag building closed

SEGUIN — Guadalupe County’s Agriculture Building will remain vacant for at least a week or two and possibly longer.

County Judge Larry Jones ordered the building at 210 E. Live Oak St. vacated Friday afternoon after receiving a letter from County Attorney David Willborn warning of the county’s potential exposure to liability because of asbestos and mold problems in the building.

Jones said he had no choice other than to order the building evacuated, and he also called an emergency meeting of commissioners court to discuss the situation.

Before the emergency meeting was convened Monday afternoon, additional chairs were brought into the commissioners courtroom to accommodate the crowd. The group included AgriLife Extension agents, 4-H leaders, 4-H members, master gardeners and others.

Jones said that throughout the court’s budget workshops there was no mention of a need to renovate the ag building until the final budget workshop on Sept. 10 when Commissioner Jim Wolverton suggested allocating $1.5 million in the 2014 budget for renovation of the building.

Besides mentioning the building’s mold problem, Wolverton said someone had fallen through the roof.

Jones said he later determined that a workman’s foot had gone through the roof back in 2011, but the man wasn’t injured and there was no worker’s compensation claim resulting from the incident. The county spent $4,500 to repair the roof, he said.

“The court has gone through several budgets and not fixed that roof properly,” Jones said.

“All we’re doing is being proactive in getting people out of a dangerous building,” Wolverton said.

After learning about the asbestos problem in addition to the presence of mold, Wolverton went to see Willborn, and the letter to Jones followed.

Jones said he received the letter at about 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“Asbestos is not a health issue unless it’s disturbed,” Commissioner Greg Seidenberger said. “The issue is mostly with that meeting room.”

Floor tiles were attached with glue containing asbestos, and some of the tiles in the meeting room are cracked or chipped.

“It’s limited to the meeting room,” said Ricky Vasquez, the county’s building maintenance supervisor.

Vasquez said he placed a call on Friday to a company to evaluate the asbestos problem, and he had not yet heard back from the company about when they can come out. He said he also has called a company about air quality monitoring to evaluate the mold problem.

“When are we going to get the reports back?” Commissioner Kyle Kutscher asked.

Vasquez said he couldn’t answer that until he hears from both companies, but he said he doubted that the reports would be completed this week.

“These conditions have been there for several years,” AgriLife Extension agent Travis Franke told the court. “I’ve been there since July of ‘99, and I’m still breathing.”

“Can it be fixed now?” Commissioner Judy Cope asked. “I don’t believe we have the information at this time to tell anyone whether this is going to be a short-term or a long-term project.”

“I don’t think that building is any different from the courthouse, and we’re not evacuating that,” Jones said. “At 1.5 million dollars, we can build a brand new building for AgriLife.”

Others who addressed commissioners court during the emergency meeting included former County Judge Charlie Willmann, Peggy Jones, Cindy Martin, Ken Winkelmann, Mitchell Moczygemba and Krystal Moczygemba.

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Asbestos, mold threat keeps ag building closed