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January 19, 2018

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.

Excerpt from – 

Prosecutor in dust-up over asbestos threat

Winnipeg contractor in botched asbestos job has criminal past

A Winnipeg contractor who was recently sanctioned for a botched asbestos removal job has a long criminal history that includes convictions for fraud and theft, the CBC News I-Team has learned.

Workman Industries owner John Sirenn’s criminal record dates back to 1959 with convictions for cashing thousands of dollars in fake cheques and for stealing copper wire and electronics from other businesses, according to court documents.

The documents also show he once fled from a traffic check stop when he was not licensed to drive. His vehicle crashed into a hydro pole that fell within inches of a woman’s head.

“Absolutely disgusted,” said Jon Cameron, whose family filed a complaint against Workman after crews botched an asbestos remediation job at his parents’ house, sending asbestos into the air.

“I mean, how is it that somebody who is consistently violating laws and regulations, putting people’s well-being at risk, how is he still able to work in this city?”

In August, Sirenn and his crew were caught on video dragging asbestos-covered materials — without wearing protective gear — through Rafaelita and Victor Cameron’s home in Point Douglas.

Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health issued stop-work orders against Workman and Sarte Heating and Cooling, as well as ordered Workman to decontaminate the house.

However, that work wasn’t done. The Camerons have been out of their home for nearly two months.

“There’s no way that this man should still be working. There’s no way he should still have a company,” Cameron said of Sirenn.

Sirenn has refused to speak to CBC News. Officials from Sarte Heating and Cooling have not responded to a request for comment.

No protective masks

Cameron’s mother, Rafaelita Cameron, had hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace their old boiler system with a new high-efficiency furnace.

However, the company could not carry out the installation until the old boiler — which was covered in asbestos — was removed.

So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to go to the Point Douglas home on Aug. 7 to do the remediation.

When the Workman crew arrived, the family said they noticed the workers were not wearing protective masks or equipment. As well, they said they were not instructed to stay away.

Rafaelita Cameron said she confronted one of the workers when the family realized there were no barriers created to separate the basement job site from the rest of the home.

Jon Cameron videotaped as Workman crews removed the old asbestos-covered boiler in pieces without wrapping any of it in plastic.

The family has since decided to pay out of pocket to get the house remediated so they can replace the boiler and move back in.

Another company, Associated Environmental Services, has since been hired to carry out the asbestos remediation.

‘It was just deplorable’

AES project manager Jason Driedger said his crews had to vacuum and wipe down every surface in the house — a task that he said took them two weekends.

“I came in and took an initial look at the place and I was shocked,” he said.

“Open bags of materials and, I mean, it was just deplorable — as a homeowner, nothing you would ever want to see and nothing you should see.”

Driedger said the workers that Workman Industries hired may not have even known the dangers of what they were handling.

Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally don’t pose a health risk, according to Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s only when the asbestos is disturbed, and the dust is emitted into the air, that it poses a risk to human health, the agencies say. In significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis and lung cancer.

Workman Industries was issued a cease and desist order to stop using the Certificate of Recognition (COR) Program logo on its website.

The COR certification is obtained through the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and typically means a company has a safety and health program that meets national standards.

When CBC News contacted the association last month, it said Workman Industries has never been certified by them.

“It really turns my stomach because we’re trying so hard in this industry to make it safe for everybody and to do a proper job, and then you see somebody who just comes in and completely ruins people’s houses,” Driedger said.

“It’s just terrible and it makes the rest of us, the legit companies, look really bad.”

Also Read

View original article:

Winnipeg contractor in botched asbestos job has criminal past

Winnipeg family left homeless after botched asbestos job

A Winnipeg family is homeless after a botched asbestos remediation in their Point Douglas home. 

The company that did the remediation, Workman Industries, has been issued a cease and desist order to stop using the logo of a national certification body on its website. 

“There was open bags of asbestos. There was an air filtration machine running but with the hose running out to nowhere basically,” said Jon Cameron, the homeowners’ son.  “The window was not open, so it was more like for show.”

The Point Douglas home on Austin Street has been owned by Cameron’s parents, Rafaelita and Victor Cameron, for 37 years.  They live there along with their daughter, Cherielyn Yabas, her husband and their one month old daughter, Saffiya. 

“[I’m] scared for all of us, especially for her,” said Cerielyn, looking down at her infant daughter. “She’s so young.”

Rafaelita Cameron had hired Sarte Heating and Cooling to replace the old boiler system with a new high efficiency furnace, but the company could not do the installation until the old boiler, which was covered in asbestos, was removed. 

So Sarte arranged for Workman Industries to go to the Point Douglas home on Aug. 7 to do the remediation. 

Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally don’t pose a health risk, according to Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s only when the asbestos is disturbed, and the dust is emitted into the air that it poses a risk to human health, the agencies say.  In significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis and lung cancer.

“I never talked to [Workman] before [the work started],” said Rafaelita Cameron.

Family notices ‘red flags’

When the crew arrived, Rafaelita and her daughter noticed red flags. 

They said the workers were not wearing protective equipment or masks.

Rafaelita, Yabas and her one-month-old daughter, Saffiya, were all in and out of the home as they were not instructed to stay away. 

They eventually realized there were no barriers created to separate the basement job site from the remainder of the home.  Rafaelita said she confronted one of the workers.

“I said ‘Where’s the barrier? How come there’s no barrier?” she said. 

That’s when she contacted her son, Jon Cameron, to step in. 

Cameron video-taped the company as they removed the old asbestos covered boiler in pieces without wrapping any of it in plastic. 

“Pretty much just bare-handing these materials from the basement.  I didn’t notice any masks,” said Jon Cameron. “These guys were wearing T-shirts and shorts and jeans. There was nothing to indicate they were taking precautions in handling asbestos.”

Jon Cameron contacted the province. 

Workplace Safety and Health issues stop-work order

The next morning, Workplace Safety and Health issued stop-work orders against Workman Industries and Sarte Heating and Cooling for a botched asbestos remediation. 

The orders says “Asbestos containing material is being released into the atmosphere at this project site,” and measures used to control asbestos were not used. 

The family said the agency photographed open bags of asbestos still in the basement and told them their home and its contents are contaminated, so they should not be there.

“It was very shocking,” said Jon Cameron, “I was scared and was very angry because this is my family, and they mean everything to me.  There’s no reason for endangering people’s lives.”

CBC News contacted Sarte Heating and Cooling. 

The owner, Lito Mendoza, said his heart goes out to the family, but Workman Industries should be responsible for the clean-up. 

When asked why he arranged for Workman Industries to do the work, he said he has only had one previous job with Workman and the air quality tests done after the fact came back with good results. 

Mendoza said his company has not taken a deposit from the homeowners at this time and said he has offered to pay $500.00 towards their accommodations while they are displaced. 

Construction safety association issues cease and desist order

CBC News tried to contact Workman Industries without success. 

The address listed on its web page is the location where the owner picks up his mail. 

Workman’s website shows a Certificate of Recognition (COR) Program logo, certification which is typically obtained through the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba. 

Typically, the logo means a company has a safety and health program that meets national standards. 

However, when CBC News contacted the association, it said Workman Industries has never been certified by them. 

The association sent Workman Industries a cease and desist letter yesterday, ordering them to stop improperly using the logo. 

The association said the company did attend some classes in 2010 but has never completed the program. 

Family wants home back

Meanwhile, Cherielyn Yabas and her family just want their home and their lives back. 

“We have nothing.  Everything’s in that house,” said Yabas, “It’s our home.  We just want to go home.”

Jon Cameron said he wants a certified company to do the work. 

“It needs to be cleaned.  It needs to be approved by a trustworthy company,” Cameron said.

“My parents need their home back. My sister and brother-in-law and their one-month-old baby need their home back,” he said. “It’s a horrible feeling to be displaced.  It’s a horrible feeling to know your family is without a home and because of no fault of their own — simply because they put their trust in so-called professionals that this would be done properly.”

Read the article:

Winnipeg family left homeless after botched asbestos job