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City Hall hazard

Workers removing floor tiles containing asbestos as part of building's restoration

Workers removing floor tiles containing asbestos as part of building's restoration

February 02, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Workers were scheduled on Thursday to finish an asbestos removal project at Hagerstown City Hall, the city's assistant engineer said.

Retro Environmental Inc. of Sykesville, Md., started removing from the third floor Tuesday evening flooring tiles that contain asbestos, said Jim Bender, assistant city engineer. The tiles have been there since the building was built about 65 years ago, he said.

Bender said the asbestos removal will cost about $8,624. In December 2005, the City Council allocated $160,000 for the third floor's renovation, he said.

Some of the hallway openings on the third floor are covered with plastic to prevent asbestos fibers from drifting throughout the building.

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A portable shower also is on the third floor so workers can wash before leaving the area.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that formerly was used for making incombustible or fireproof articles, like the flooring tiles at City Hall.

Inhaling fibers from asbestos can cause lung cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Martin Kline, an industrial hygienist for the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said using asbestos in building materials was banned in the early 1980s.

Companies that specialize in asbestos removal have to be licensed by the state, he said.

Kline said the Maryland Department of the Environment gives companies the necessary training for removing asbestos or offers a list of alternate trainers.

The Maryland Department of the Environment confirmed Thursday that Retro Environmental Inc. is a licensed asbestos-removal company.

Asbestos removers are required to wear respirators and disposable suits on the job, Kline said. Workers cannot eat or smoke while they're working and, in most cases, a portable shower is on site, he said.

Companies can be fined as much as $7,000 per violation for not following proper asbestos-removal procedures, Kline said.

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