Update on home demolition in downtown Bolivar

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Asbestos-survey results find no air contamination

BRCS Superintendent makes statement, read air quality analysis

By Andrew Harris

Just over a month ago, a private home was demolished in the village of Bolivar, causing concerns of asbestos contamination at a nearby school and grocery store. Village code enforcement officer Bill Moyer told the Wellsville Sun that he alerted the NYS Department of Labor after the property owner disobeyed his “stop-work” order.

Moyer said that, property owner, Patrick Dempsey of Wellsville, had filed for a demolition permit and began the work legally. At some point in the demo, Moyer became concerned about asbestos contamination and demanded the work stop to conduct a analysis. Moyer reported that Dempsey refused to accept the “stop-work” order and continued to demolish the house.

The situation also created great concern by local school superintendent Michael Retzlaff, who penned a letter to local and regional elected officials requesting assistance.

Since the actions by Moyer and Retzlaff, the NYS Department of Labor, the lead state agency in all asbestos related matters, has performed a comprehensive air quality test and analyzed the rubble for asbestos contamination.

According to a recent letter from Retzlaff, that survey found no airborne dangers to nearby residents, school, and businesses. The survey did however find two instances of windows that contained asbestos material. In those two instances, the material was still within the window frame and had not created any exposure danger. Read that letter from Retzlaff:

“Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members:

As Superintendent of Schools at Bolivar-Richburg Central School District, my number one priority is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all of our students, families, faculty, and staff members.

So, you can only imagine my great concerns when I was informed by the Village of Bolivar of a possible asbestos hazard across the street from our Early Childhood Education Center located on Main Street in the Village of Bolivar. On July 17, 2022, the property owner across the street at 421 Main Street, chose to ignore a “Stop Work Order” issued by the Village of Bolivar. He took it upon himself to demolish the building, knowing it was identified to contain a small amount of asbestos.

Once we were made aware of the potential hazard, we took immediate actions to protect our employees and students, including those who were working for ACCORD “Head-Start” programs which are also located in our Early Childhood Education Center. The ACCORD program and staff were immediately removed from the building pending further safety checks. As District Superintendent, I contacted the NYS Department of Labor (Asbestos Control Board) for recommended actions to assure our building was safe for occupancy. The NYS­ DOL sent an Employee Safety & Health expert to the building to conduct air quality samples inside and outside of the building on Friday, August 5, 2022. All air samples taken that day were negative for any asbestos fibers, meaning no air hazards are present at this time.

We were also able to obtain a copy of the independent asbestos analysis that was conducted on the property across the street on May 20, 2022. The report only identified asbestos within the window glaze of some of the windows, and the testing found it to be of the “Heterogeneous, Non-Fibrous, Bulk-Material” type.

As a final safety check, ACCORD “Head-Start” program shared this information with the NYS Office of Children and Family Services who, after reviewing all the documents and test results, authorized them to return to regular operations within the Early Childhood Education Building. They will reopen their “Early Head-Start” Program on Monday, August 29, 2022; and their “Head-Start” program on September 6, 2022. The Bolivar-Richburg CSD half-day Pre-K programs for 3-y/o and 4-y/o will also start classes on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

We continue to work closely with the Village of Bolivar (Code Enforcement) and the New York State, Department of Labor – Asbestos Control Board, to monitor any and all future hazards, especially when the site will be disturbed again during the final clean-up process. It is our intention that out of abundance of caution, we will be closing the building for instruction on the day(s) in which the contractor returns to the site across the street to finally remove the debris.

Again, the District takes the health and safety of all our students, families, faculty, and staff seriously. As evidenced by the these reports, along with this letter, a return to normal operations in the Early Childhood Education Center is safe at this time. If you have any further concerns or questions, please contact me directly, at (585) 928-2937.”

The report is good news for everyone. For Dempsey, had air quality samples returned positive, the entire site would have been deemed a public danger. The cost to remove the contaminated rubble would been three to four times more than standard removal, some estimates approaching $50,000. For the village residents, the air is safe and families about send kids back to school can breath a sigh of relief.

We asked Dempsey to make a comment on the report but he deferred to making a comment at a later date.

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