January 21, 2013 at 9:38 PM
PATERSON, NJ – Representatives from three departments of state government are checking whether Paterson properly handled the asbestos found at city offices at 133 Ellison Street.
Inspectors from the state health department checked the site last week, said Paterson Public Works Director Christopher Coke.
“We’ve been cooperating fully with their investigations,’’ Coke said. “My concern first and foremost is the safety and well-being of the employees and the occupants of the building.’’
City public works employees started working on renovating what had been vacant space at 133 Ellison in the early fall, Coke said. But in December, the workers came across floor tiles that contained asbestos and the work stopped, he said. City employees then removed those tiles to a dumpster at the old Montgomery Street landfill location, Coke said. The renovation job remains on hold, Coke said.
During the removal of the tiles, employees who worked in the building from the recreation division and neighborhood assistance office were relocated to other offices, officials said.
Coke said the city recently received results from 15 air samples taken at the site and all came back negative. The city also took dust samples that Coke said were negative. Samples of the actual tiles showed very low levels of asbestos, he said.
In addition to the state department, representatives of the New Jersey labor and community affairs departments also are looking into the situation, according to state spokespeople.
City activist David Gilmore has accused Coke of putting employees at risk during the asbestos removal. Gilmore has asserted that the city did not get requisite permits and did not provide needed equipment.
“This is a very situation and answers must be provided,’’ said Gilmore.
Coke said workers were given gloves, masks and protective suits to wear while they were working with the asbestos. The city now plans to hire an outside contractor to finish the renovation job because of the complications caused by the asbestos, Coke said.
The space where the asbestos was found has been sealed off and the recreation and neighborhood assistance workers were allowed to return to the building, Coke said.