Federal Asbestos Laws Violated at New Rochelle Elementary School

Sources say a bevy of asbestos handling laws were disregarded during a recent renovation project at the George M. Davis Elementary School in New Rochelle, New York, and the situation has caused concerned not only among the workers who encountered asbestos on-the-job but also staff and students who were in the building when the material was mishandled.

According to an account by Talk of the Sound radio, investigations by the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau and the New York State Education Department were initiated last week after the radio station reported asbestos violations at the busy school, where renovations are taking place in the principal’s office and elsewhere around the building.

What they found was that workers from district contractor George Wood Plumbing, working at the direction of John Gallagher, Director of Buildings and Grounds, failed to stop working when asbestos tiles were discovered in the office of the school principal. The workers also did not make any effort to seal off the area to prevent the crumbling tiles from releasing tiny airborne fibers into the air, where they might have been inhaled by staff and students who were inside the building at the time. Asbestos, found in myriad building products and present in thousands of older U.S. schools, can cause mesothelioma cancer if accidentally inhaled.

After authorities were alerted, the area was tested for the presence of asbestos and results were positive. Asbestos material was confirmed in tiles, dust, and pieces of tile and dust stuck to a carpet partially removed by the contractor. Also, it was confirmed that the toxic tiles and contaminated carpet were carried from the principal's office, through the hallway, to the school lobby and out the front doors of the school, contaminating everything in their wake. In addition, six bags of asbestos material had been improperly stored in a school closet for four days.

However, Principal Michael Galland insists there’s no need for concern. He wrote the following in an email to parents: “Recently, while construction work was being done by an outside contractor in the principal’s office at Davis, tiles were discovered under carpeting that we learned today contained chrysotile, a form of asbestos. Students and staff were not in the vicinity of the office while the removal work was being completed.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will now be called in to track the disposal of the asbestos material and determine whether any other infractions were committed. There is no word as to whether or not the City School District of New Rochelle will be fined for its shoddy asbestos ha ndling.

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