Friday, November 26, 2010

Revival & Expansion of Canadian Asbestos Mines Causes Uproar

Open Pit Asbestos Mine in Asbestos, Quebec
The recent free trade agreement between India and Canada (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)) will boost the asbestos trade.  This agreement will allow an increase in asbestos exports from Canada to India. This agreement needless to say has caused an uproar among environmental, labour & health groups.  The groups demanded that a ban of the asbestos trade must be deemed a pre-condition for future negotiations on CEPA.
The Quebec government has announced the offer of C$58 million ($57 million) in loan guarantees to convert the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Quebec from an open-pit to an underground operation.  The open-pit reserves are almost exhausted but the deeper deposits are among the biggest in the world.  Canada is the world’s fifth-biggest asbestos producer after Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Brazil.  India is one of the biggest consumers of cancer causing asbestos fibers from Quebec, Canada.  Revival and expansion of the mine would boost asbestos production from the 100-year-old mine from an estimated 15,000 tonnes this year to 180,000 tonnes in 2012 and an eventual capacity of 260,000 tonnes, or about 10 per cent of global production.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) expresses its support and solidarity with the protest from health and environmental groups against an attempt by Indian and other investors to revive a big Canadian asbestos mine.  Jeffrey and one other remaining mine in the Quebec province of Canada produce chrysotile, or white asbestos, used mainly to reinforce cement used for water pipes and other building materials. Exposure to asbestos fibers causes incurable and fatal lung diseases. In India there is a ban on asbestos mining but trade, manufacture and use of asbestos products is yet to be banned. There is a ban on trade in asbestos waste as well.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goldberg & Connolly's Construction Law Update Covers Change Order Crisis at the SCA


BearAcade™ Sticky Poly is now patented–both the product and the method. 
It’s US Patent No. 7,818,941
Hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving and may your family and friends make the day beautiful.  As we have discussed in our classes, some of you are doing consulting and contracting work for the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA).  Many of you have complained about the SCA and the way they handle accounts payables (your accounts receivables).  Goldberg & Connolly are construction attorneys and they put out a monthly newsletter (Construction Law Update) discussing various construction issues.  Their latest newsletter is titled "Change Order Crisis at the SCA."  If you do business with the SCA, we strongly recommend you read this update discussing issues with the SCA's policy and the language in the terms and conditions on handling change orders that you submit to the SCA.  The article starts with the following statistic: "It has been estimated that there are 5,000 outstanding, unresolved change orders pending at the New York City School Construction Authority totaling $600-800 million dollars."  That is an amazing amount money to be still on the table waiting for payment and, in this economy, that amount of money is having a significant effect on small businesses.  That effect probably matches the effect of unvailable financing for small businesses.  The article is written well and is very understandable for us non-legal types.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

EPA Signs Agreement with Southampton Hospital to Enhance its Environmental Practices


Montauk Point, Long Island, NY
A few days ago the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Southampton Hospital signed an agreement with them to join the Green Team.  The Green Team is an EPA Region 2 (includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands) team of experts that helps developers incorporate more sustainable construction, operation and maintenance practices into their projects through voluntary agreements called memorandums of understanding (MOU’s).
Under the agreement between Southampton Hospital and EPA, the hospital will:
  • Reduce and eliminate mercury and other toxic substances throughout its facility.
  • Join EPA’s WasteWise program, which provides technical assistance in developing waste reduction and recycling plans. A cardboard compactor will be purchased and installed at the loading dock so cardboard packaging can be recycled. The hospital estimates that it will recycle 10 tons of cardboard each year.
  • Join the EPA ENERGY STAR Program and set a goal of reducing energy use by10%.
  • Use water-saving WaterSense products in the renovation and upgrading of existing buildings and in new buildings. This will reduce water usage and the associated energy needs. An average WaterSense plumbing fixture saves 13,000 gallons each year.
  • Use materials with recycled content for construction wherever possible.
EPA has similar agreements in place with a number of major sports organizations (New York Mets), universities (St. John's University), hospital systems (North Shore-Long Island Jewish), and real estate firms (Cushman & Wakefield) in New York and New Jersey. For more information on EPA green agreements, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/greenteam/.  For more information on Southampton Hospital’s environmental efforts, visit http://www.southhamptonhospital.org/.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

OSHA Cites NJ Company For Scaffold Violations In Staten Island


Scaffolding in Glen Cove, NY
      The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Exterior Stucco Systems Inc. of Wayne, New Jersey with five repeat violations involving fall hazards related to the improper construction of scaffolding on a Staten Island, New York worksite.  Proposed penalties total $61,600. 
     OSHA initiated the inspection of the site on Sept. 1 as part of a local emphasis program focused on fall hazards in construction.  As a result, the company received citations for failing to maintain a safety program, not fully planking scaffold platforms, not providing a ladder for safe scaffold access, not removing and replacing damaged scaffold components, and not properly braceing scaffolds with cross braces.
     A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Due to the number of repeat violations cited, the company has been added to the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
     Initiated in June 2010, SVEP is intended to focus OSHA enforcement resources on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe; industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards; employee exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals; and all egregious enforcement actions. For more information on SVEP, visit http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Importance of Personal Protective Equipment


An exterminator works yesterday (Saturday) inside the Huntington Public Library, which was closed Friday after bedbugs were found.


The above photo was published with the Newsday article "Huntington library fumigated for bugs."  It is an interesting photo from a health and safety perspective.  The article discusses the fumigation of the library using a chemical called Nuvan to eliminate the bugs.  If we look up the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)for Nuvan 7 (Visit http://www.amvac-chemical.com/media/pdf/products/msds/nuvan_7.pdf for the MSDS for Nuvan 7), we learn this chemical is poisonous if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin and eyes.  Based on the picture and the assumption that the worker is working with this chemical as the picture implies.  The worker is not wearing the right safety equipment or as we call it in the industry, personal protective equipment or PPE.  Since this chemical can be absorbed through the skin and eyes, the tyvek suit the worker is wearing in the photo is the proper PPE to protect his body.  However, since the worker is not wearing gloves or goggles this chemical can absorb into the worker through his hands or eyes.  If the amount absorbed is sufficient it could be fatal as the MSDS indicates.  The worker in the picture is missing gloves (nitrile is recommended type of glove on the MSDS), in addition his shoes or the coverings over his shoes should also be chemical resistant (we can't see this so we don't know if this is correct or not), and chemical resistant gogggles are required, too.  The half-mask air purifying respirator (APR) the worker is wearing seems to be correct since the cartridge appears to be purple (typically the color for HEPA cartridges) and black (the color associated with organic vapor cartridges, and specified on the MSDS).  However, the worker is wearing the respirator incorrectly.  The straps for the respirator always go under the hood of the protective suit.  This way when you take off the contaminated suit the respirator can remain on until you have decontaminated yourself.  For the worker in the picture to take off the suit, the worker would first have to take off the respirator exposing the worker to the chemicals that were on the suit.
On final item, it is our experience that when wearing a half-mask APR, like the one in the photo, together with goggles always causes problems.  When the goggles are worn on the face with a respirator the goggles typically do not seal properly on the face.  Since the MSDS requires workers to wear eye protection with this chemical (Nuven 7), we would recommend using a full-face air purifying respirator to make sure the eyes are protected, instead of the half-mask APR.  
All of these issues indicate a possible lack of training (or is it showmanship for the article) of the worker wearing the PPE.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to be trained in hazard communication (how to read MSDS) and using PPE.  It is very important that workers are properly trained on the hazards they are exposed to and trained on the correct PPE for working with chemicals.  This training and knowledge is what Keeps Employees Safe!

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NYCDEP Requesting Comments On Proposed Changes to Asbestos Regulations

Asbestos Rat in New York City
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) is requesting comments regarding the amendments to Title 15 (the asbestos regulations).  These comments are due before December 6, 2010.  The link on the title will provide you the location of the amendments and to make comments on the amendments.   A public hearing will be held on December 6, 2010 at the NYCDEP, 59-17 Junction Boulevard, 6th Floor, Flushing, NY 11373, from 10:00 A.M. to 12 Noon.  Persons who have questions about the hearing should contact Belinda Pantina at (718) 595-6555.  Primary changes are made to the definition to clarify materials, the section on Alterations/Renovations/Modifications to include asbestos exemptions, the section on Asbestos Abatement Permits to detail what is included in a work place safety plan, section on Abatement from Vertical Exterior Surfaces was modified to provide guidance when abatement should not be performed, and to correct typographical errors and other small corrections.   An example of the changes includes the following:
  •  Asbestos Assessment Report. If the building (or portions thereof) affected by the work are free of asbestos-containing material or the amount of ACM to be abated constitutes a minor project, an asbestos assessment report (Form ACP-5) completed, signed, and sealed by a DEP-certified asbestos investigator, along with a fee of $[25]47.00 shall be submitted to [DOB] DEP prior to construction document approval and to any amendment of the construction document approval which increases the scope of the project to include (a) work area(s) not previously covered.
Note that the fee is now $47 for the asbestos assessment report and the form must be submitted to the DEP not the Building Department.  This is an example of the changes in the document those things underline are new and those bracketted are deleted.  Remember afte rreading it if you want to make comments you have till December 6, 2010 to make those comments.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Importance of Respiratory Protection at Demolition or Disaster Sites

The Newsday story "Ground Zero settlement tally delayed as deadline hits" had the above image as part of the story.  Based on this image we see workers at the sight wearing two different types of respirators and one worker wearing only a neckerchief (or something similar).  The predominant respirator worn in this picture is the filtering facepiece respirator.  This respirator is primarily meant to handle nuisance dusts and is not intended in handling hazardous materials or chemical vapors.  It has two straps and most have a metal nose clip that is meant to achieve a better seal around the nose.  It seems most are wearing these correctly except the individual in the background which appears to have only one strap on.  For this individual, the respirator is probably not providing the intended protection.  Three individuals have the half-mask air purifying respirators two are wearing them properly while the third is wearing it as jewelry.  The cartridges being worn are high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.  The HEPA filter is the highest level filter you can get for particulates and will filter out asbestos, lead, and other hazardous dusts.  However, this filter will not filter chemical vapors.  Based on the contaminants previously published from 9/11, the standard respirator should have been a half-mask air purifying respirator with organic vapor, acid gas, and P100 (HEPA) filters.  So all the respirators in the picture were the wrong type to protect them, based on published reports of the contaminants at the 9/11 work sight.  Hopefully, the regulatory and disaster community learned the lessons of 9/11 and in the future we can ensure workers at the sight wear the proper respirator and wear it properly.  Maybe then in the future we will not have to pay these claims on people who got sick for not wearing a respirator or wearing the wrong type.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

5 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality - My Money (usnews.com)

Paint and Indoor Air QualityImage by kqedquest via FlickrThe garage as far as we are concerned is one of the most dangerous areas of the home.  Between the car, tool, and chemical storage it can have various items that by themselves would have significant impacts on indoor air quality.  Individually, cars can impact air quality with the carbon monoxide they produce that can infiltrate the home, tools, depending on what powers them, can also have the same effect as a car or can generate contaminants like sawdust, silica, asbestos or other hazardous vapors, and chemical storage by itself can generate volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous vapors and mists.   The above article points out various ways you can improve your air quality and the ideas are excellent.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kings Park Psychiatric Center Cleanup Estimated At $215 Million

Kings Park Psychiatric CenterImage via WikipediaThe verdict is in on the Kings Park Psychiatric Center environmental cleanup.  The cleanup is estimated to cost $215 million.  Compared to original estimates from developers ten years ago of $60 million, that is nearly 4 times the original estimates.  Though we don't think the original estimates were accurate at all.  The current estimate, developed by Dvirka and Bartilucci an environmental engineering firm based in Woodbury, NY, and TRC Environmental, an environmental consultanting firm based in NYC, is probably closest to the mark because Dvirka and Bartilucci and TRC spent several months on the property performing a number of inspections and surveys to get as accurate a picture of the materials and the costs involved with this project. 
The $215 million price is for demolishing all 57 abandoned buildings on the property and returning the 368 acres to open space, said a statement from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which commissioned the study by Dvirka & Bartilucci.  The bulk of the cost, about $186 million, pays for tearing down the buildings and cleaning up asbestos and other hazardous materials. Other costs include $26 million to demolish and remediate five miles of underground steam tunnels and $3.7 million to excavate materials dumped on the property over the years.  State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) had secured $29 million for park cleanup and agreed to spend $3.6 million for the environmental study.  He said the actual cost will be determined when the projects are put out for bid. 
In February 2009, after community groups clamored for some resolution of the property, then State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash ordered the demolition of 15 buildings deemed unsafe, which will cost $14 million. Requests for bids for that project will go out soon.  Once that happens and those bids come in we will get a better idea what it will actually cost.



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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Gov. Paterson Proposes Eliminating New York Participation in Federal Superfund Program

Workers in hazmat suits check the status of a ...Image via WikipediaIt seems to us that our lame duck Governor is doing all the nasty and dirty work before the incoming Governor has to.  Between laying off state workers, firing the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), and now eliminating New York State's participation in Superfund, its to bad we can't get a tax cap in place, too.  It concerns us how NYS DEC will be able to handle all the work that is scheduled for NYS.  Between the Hudson River Dredging project, the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek just to mention a few.  We need to make sure that Governor Patterson's obvious attack on the NYS DEC does not hamper or significantly hinder its ability to perform its functions in New York State.
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