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Toxic troubles 

Asbestos abatement inside the USOC's future office site hasn't been smooth

click to enlarge Removing asbestos has been a pain inside USOCs Tejon - site. - KATHY CONARRO
  • Kathy Conarro
  • Removing asbestos has been a pain inside USOCs Tejon site.

For months now, hidden behind the turquoise tiles of 27 S. Tejon St., workers have been removing asbestos, clearing the way for construction that will transform the aging building into a swanky new home for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

But the process hasn't been completely smooth. And the description of just how many toxic bumps have been encountered along the road to redevelopment changes depending on to whom you talk.

Christopher Dann is the spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Air Pollution Control Division, the governmental arm overseeing the abatement. According to his records, there have been some serious concerns.

"The work was ceased on our order on March 5, and it resumed the end of April," he says.

Dann explains that demolition workers were initially at work on a separate floor from asbestos abatement workers. But the state found the containment of the abatement was inadequate, and also noted that a demo worker had disturbed asbestos in what was supposed to be a clean area.

"We considered the entire building to be a spill site," he says.

The project had to be re-evaluated, and the state, which had initially issued a 30-day permit for abatement, issued a year-long permit for the work. Dann says the state is now satisfied that work being done in the building is safe. No complaints have been logged with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding employee health.

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The state's story is markedly different from the account provided by Mark Miller, president of LandCo Office and Warehouse Group, which is redeveloping the property. Miller could think of two major tie-ups in the abatement. Back in November, he says, thieves broke into the building and stole copper pipe from the basement, cutting asbestos off the pipe as they worked and contaminating the entire building with airborne particles, which cause health problems when inhaled into the lungs.

Miller says LandCo contacted the state for direction in the matter. Shortly afterward, he says, LandCo hired Innovar Environmental Inc., to handle the abatement, replacing a contractor that had yet to begin work.

In March, Miller says, heavy snow caused some roof leakage, spurring fear that water could spread the asbestos. The project shut down for about a week while new roofing was installed.

Miller notes the project could have been delayed a little longer as plans were tweaked with the state. Either way, he says he's now confident Innovar has controlled the problems and the project will meet its deadlines.

But Joel Lederman, program manager for Innovar, says his company hasn't had any problems with the abatement. He says a previous contractor ran into problems with the state, not his corporation.

Though the stories conflict, everyone seems to agree the project is now moving along safely. Miller says he still expects the building to be ready for the USOC in July 2009.

While he admits abatement "was originally thought to be a much smaller project than it turned out to be," he notes that LandCo built delays into its schedule.

Miller says he expects abatement to be complete around June 20. Following final approval by the state and a private company hired by LandCo to oversee safety of the asbestos removal, demolition and construction can proceed.

stanley@csindy.com

  • The description of toxic bumps along the road changes depending on to whom you talk.

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