116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — No precautions were taken when a company hired to repair derecho damage at Kennedy High School removed floor tiles containing asbestos from a classroom, according to an administrative order from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District hired Perfect Property Restoration, a company out of Illinois, to repair damage to the school from the derecho in Aug. 10, 2020. Documents provided to Perfect Property Restoration by the district showed damaged floor tiles in room 251 contained asbestos.
The floor tiles were removed because of water damage sustained in the derecho. The windstorm on Aug. 10, 2020, severely damaged Kennedy, Jefferson and Washington high schools and many elementary schools.
Asbestos is a fibrous material that has been used in floor tiles, insulation and other building materials and can spread through the air. The state regulates its removal because asbestos is known to cause cancer and is a hazardous air pollutant.
Large fans were used to ventilate the room while workers removed the floor tiles, and no precautions were taken or regulations followed to remove asbestos, according to the DNR order from Dec. 1.
Some teachers and custodians may have been in the area during that time.
On Oct. 2, 2020, school district building and grounds manager Jon Galbraith contacted a DNR environmental specialist about the asbestos disturbance. The DNR ordered the school closed to everyone but cleanup workers.
The district has agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $4,500 and comply with all asbestos regulations during future restoration, renovation or construction projects. Perfection Property Restoration agreed to pay a fine of $6,500 for the violation in March.
Asbestos also was removed improperly at Cedar Rapids Washington High School
This is the second time in five years that improper asbestos removal has happened in a Cedar Rapids school.
Improper asbestos removal during renovations at Washington High School in 2014 and 2015 resulted in a Cedar Rapids contractor paying $40,000 as part of a settlement.
A 2019 lawsuit by the state against Abatement Specialists alleged the company failed to thoroughly inspect for and remove asbestos before renovation, failed to adequately wet the material and failed to carefully lower it to the ground during removal.
Washington was closed July 8, 2015, after an air sample test showed asbestos fibers in the air above an acceptable level during a renovation project, The Gazette reported.
An investigation by the DNR showed communication and oversight problems led to the release of asbestos into the air, possibly exposing more than 100 construction workers to the carcinogen.
The DNR found both the Cedar Rapids Community School District and Abatement Specialties in violation of Environmental Protection Agency asbestos regulations at that time. The district settled with the state in 2017, agreeing to produce a video on asbestos requirements within schools and make the video available online to other Iowa districts.
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