After Telling New Rochelle Parents No Asbestos at Davis, District Sends 10 Workers to Mt. Sinai Hospital for Asbestos Testing

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MarinoAsbestosMemo 2013 0809

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Talk of the Sound has obtained a memo which directs ten school district employees to be evaluated for exposure to asbestos at Mt. Sinai Selikoff Center for Occupation & Environmental Medicine at St. John's Riverside Hospital in Yonkers.

As part of a two-hour examination procedure, workers will undergo a breathing test, chest x-rays and an evaluation by a doctor specializing in workplace asbestos exposure.

The memo was sent on August 9th by Grace Marino, the district's clerk for Risk Management, to employees in the Buildings & Grounds Department and at the George M. Davis Elementary School. Marino informs the workers that Assistant Superintendent John Quinn contacted Mt. Sinai and made arrangements for them "in regard to asbestos testing."

The memo is dated just a day after the school surreptitiously altered a timeline document initially published on the District web site on August 5th and read into the record by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak at a school board meeting on August 6th.

The altered August 8 timeline document removed two references to health determinations falsely attributed to the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH) by Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, the District Medical Director.

A third reference to WCDOH, actively discouraged parents from seeking medical evaluations for their children following an asbestos exposure incident which began on July 16th and continued at least until July 20th when a certified asbestos contractor came to work at the school.

Staff and students were in the building for a summer school program all that week. Friable asbestos material was spread throughout hallways, the school lobby, the traffic circle in front of the school and the principal's office, over a period of two days according to sources familiar with the incident. 6 large garbage bags of smashed asbestos tiles were stored in a closet for four days.

A carpet containing asbestos tiles was stored in the lobby of the school from shortly after noon on the July 16th until about 11 a.m. on July 17th

The City School District of New Rochelle has repeatedly denied that any individual's health was put at risk after workers removed asbestos tiles from two school offices at the North End elementary school. The District has based those claims on information allegedly obtained by Dr. Weiss-Harrison from the WCDOH after she claimed that all tiles in the building were removed intact and were thus non-friable -- not broken, not releasing asbestos fibers and thus not dangerous.

Asbestos fibers are known to cause asbestosis (pulmonary fibrosis due to asbestos), diffuse pleural thickening, pleural plaques, pleural effusion, rounded atelectasis and malignancies such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.

Asbestos removal, transport and disposal is heavily regulated under various state and federal laws.

The WCDOH has stated that their agency has no role in investigating possible asbestos exposure and referred matters to the New York Department of Labor (DOL) Asbestos Control Bureau. The DOL is currently investigating the incident with investigators from the EPA, state DEC, state SED and others awaiting the results.

WCDOH demanded a retraction from school officials after statements attributed to WCDOH were published by the District claiming that the WCDOH had determined that there was no exposure to asbestos and consequently no health risk.

County Legislator Sheila Marcotte spoke with WCDOH officials earlier today about the District's failure to completely retract statements attributed to the WCDOH. Marcotte says she was told the WCDOH would review the matter and reiterate their demand for a full and complete retraction.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Bob McCaffrey on Wed, 08/14/2013 - 21:37

At what point do these acts become criminal?

What is going on with The New Rochelle Board of Education and The New Rochelle School Board? What we are seeing is totally unacceptable, to the point, almost being criminal. Who is holding who accountable? It is like we are allowing the wolves to care for the sheep.

The WCDOH has stated that their agency has no role in investigating possible asbestos exposure and referred matters to the New York Department of Labor (DOL) Asbestos Control Bureau. The DOL is currently investigating the incident with investigators from the EPA, state DEC, state SED and others awaiting the results. I hope that one of the others that are waiting is The New York State Attorney General and Federal Prosecutors. Because it is time The New Rochelle Board of Education and The New Rochelle School Board are held accountable for the many lax in judgments that have occurred on their watch.

Add several more incidents to the growing number of issues with in the New Rochelle School System. These are problems from this past year alone. The taxpayers of New Rochelle cannot afford to pay for the back lash from these new issues along with several others over the last several weeks. What about the ones still not reported, it is way too many to comprehend, you do the math. It adds up to trouble with the system and those responsible for our children, their lives, safety, education and our tax dollars, most importantly our children.

We have the people and departments that should be watching out and reviewing many of these situations. There should already be policies and procedures in place. At past meetings I said, the policies and procedures must be followed, updated and reviewed. Don’t stop at the schools, follow the chain of command and determine the root of the problem. The problem starts at the top and works its way down to school level. Like our city government there is no accountability. Holding these people accountable is the only way to get action rather than inaction or reaction!

The New Rochelle Board of Education and The New Rochelle School Board are much like The City Government of New Rochelle. They keep following the same flawed process. Why do our lives have to be law suits, Foil Requests, battles, lack of understanding, cooperation and disconnects.

The result of following the same flawed process in New Rochelle continues to be that of confrontation, debate, petitions, hearings and a lack of true input by the community. I repeat myself; the time has come to put a stop to all of the nonsense for the sake of our children, their lives, safety, education and our tax dollars, most importantly our children.

Considering that New Rochelle School taxes are the largest part of our annual tax payments, Isn’t it time the New Rochelle City Council and Staff begin to ask questions. We share service or provide some services to the schools. Just one law suit can hurt The City of New Rochelle along with the City of New Rochelle School District. In two recent cases at New Rochelle High School the New Rochelle Fire Department was part of the conversation for the poor communication and safety procedures that were used by the school. The City of New Rochelle School District made claims about communication and the involvement of The New Rochelle Fire Department as follow up to the poor handling of situations there. All denied by The New Rochelle Fire Department. We would get a double hit from any law suit because we would have to defend these claims. We continue to foot the bill for much of the problems that plague The New Rochelle School District.

Many of these expenses are related to poor management, supervision decisions and back pedaling which are not directly related to teaching our children. They are avoidable, manageable and controllable by doing things the right way from the beginning. In order for this to change more people must step up and be involved. Let your voices be heard even if it is in the form of an e-mail. It is time to hold these people accountable.

It is time for someone to be fired or even sent to jail.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Thu, 08/15/2013 - 00:17

Bob,

The District has broken various state and federal laws. The ones that will bite the most relate to the violations of the Toxic Substance Act and state laws related to the improper transport and disposal of toxic material.

I would expect that John Gallagher, the Director of Buildings and Grounds, has a serious problem here as does the contract, George Wood.

Then there is the misinformation coming and going to and from the WCDOH. The person in the middle of the that is Dr. Adrienne-Weiss, the medical director. I would expect there are issues here for the medical review board.

Then there is Assistant Superintendent Quinn who is the cabinet official who oversees Buildings & Grounds. I am no apologist for Quinn but I believe that he really did not know about the asbestos incident until he read my email on August 1st. Unfortunately, he seems to be the one who has conveyed the claim that all of the tiles were removed intact at Davis School.

In the end, it comes to down to the DOL. If they conclude that the tiles were smashed up as we have reported then they would be considered friable and thus the stakes rise dramatically and get into the realm of criminality.

That said, whatever various outside agencies do, I cannot see how John Gallagher, John Quinn or Dr. Weiss could retain the confidence of the board if they come to the conclusion that they did not provide truthful accounts of what took place at Davis to the board.

I believe the answer is already clear but I am content to wait and see what comes back from the DOL.

In the meantime, the WCDOH needs to step and FORCE the District to retract the various false statements made and attributed falsely to WCDOH.

BTW, this is VERY serious incident. I am surprised by the lack of interest from parents, especially Davis parents, in a case where school officials were so willing to put children's health at risk and lie about it to boot.

John D'Alois on Thu, 08/15/2013 - 06:28

It doesn't matter if they claim the tiles came up intact. The fact that there was ACM (asbestos containing material) is, by law, reason enough to require an abatement contractor. The notion that, after identifying ACM, that someone would say "let's start taking up the tiles and see what happens, maybe we'll get lucky" is by no means considered an asbestos mitigation plan. Assume at the outset, many of the tiles are already loose and they start picking them up to put in bags. Now, some are still bonded to the floor and start to break upon removal. Uh oh, now we better call in the pro's. This is not how it's done. There's no controls to say when to stop breaking tiles to get to the loose ones. Are they saying none were stuck to the carpet? Not one square inch of glue was still bonding a single tile? Not one of them broke at all? Preposterous. Theoretically, you would have to roll back the carpet, then lift each individual tile and gently place it into a container without breaking them, then seal the container and hope they dont break while handling them. Has anyone out there ever seen just how brittle these tiles become after a decade or two of being glued to the floor? Anyone, anyone? I didn't think so. Somebody has to have asbestos awareness training. Who has that responsibility? Making a mistake is one thing, unacceptable considering this is exactly what these guys are paid to do, but trying to cover it up is criminal. Lying about is criminal. Bittersweet irony for a group that has a habit of burying things under the rug, to now have what was under the rug to come out and bite them in the, well, you get the picture.

John Imburgia on Thu, 08/15/2013 - 10:33

John is right. Asbestos removal is heavily regulated and someone should have known that the tiles should have been tested for asbestos content from the onset. In this day and age, it is almost common knowledge particularly in schools. How this was not known by school employees shows a lack of training or a complete disregard for the law.