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Asbestos concerns get airing

Residents and East Side leaders met Thursday evening in Pratt Willert Community Center to address concerns about the potential for exposure to asbestos from the allegedly botched Kensington Heights abatement project.

Larry Williams Sr., a community activist and block club leader on nearby Glenwood Avenue, called the meeting and invited elected officials. He also invited representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"It's important because our children are important," Williams said. "One thing we wanted to do tonight was to close [Glenny Park] as a safety precaution until we get results from the [air quality] testing."

A representative from the office of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, read a letter from the congresswoman addressed to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, asking that the EPA conduct air and soil testing near the vacant Kensington Heights public housing towers. Mayor Byron W. Brown also urged the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, which owns the site, to arrange for air quality testing.

Two asbestos-abatement contractors were on hand to offer insight into the dangers associated with asbestos and what types of training and regulations are mandated by law.

Al Steele of Hannah Demolition and Ellen Shareef of CNR Housing Inc. offered suggestions on questions residents should be asking the DEC and EPA, including the type of asbestos at issue and whether proper measures were taken to contain it.

Both noted that asbestos abatement contractors are required to submit filters from the masks of workers for laboratory testing on a daily basis. The results, they aded, should become available, so residents will know what the asbestos levels in the air were during the time between July 2009 and January 2010 when the work was being performed by Johnson Contracting and JMD Environmental Inc. -- both indicted, accused of improper disposal of asbestos.

"Given the deception that has surrounded this so far, I am not willing to trust anyone's say-so until we get some proof," Williams said.