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No health risk in Niagara asbestos scare; state cites 6 violations

LOCKPORT – The state Labor Department has completed its investigation of the possible exposure of welfare workers to asbestos as they cleaned out the basement of a Niagara County-owned building in late May, concluding that there was no airborne asbestos and no health risks at the site, according to a statement Thursday evening from county Public Information Officer Christian W. Peck.

The Shaw Building in Lockport, home to the Health and Mental Health departments, was the scene of the cleanout. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Public Employee Safety and Health met with county and union leaders Thursday and directed that any asbestos still in the basement and crawl space must be abated 30 to 45 days after the issuance of its final report. “We think we’re about two months out,” said Jennifer R. Pitarresi, county risk and insurance director.

The only positive asbestos test was on the floor near the basement door. The state did cite six violations, including, Peck said, “lack of signs and labels, testing, identification, and employee notice of the presence or presumption of asbestos containing materials, employee asbestos awareness training, and one unrelated violation pertaining to the cover of an electrical panel box having been removed.” He said the county already has corrected those issues.

Pitarresi said the county’s internal investigation of how welfare workers were sent into a potentially hazardous situation “is still ongoing.”