Thursday, January 10, 2008

[LCSD] The Asbestos Blame Game!

Shortly after I posted my little rant about Rick Alexander and asbestos, I received an email from a reader:

A note on Asbestos in schools- when you attended school in Lebanon, all of your schools contained asbestos. It was Jim Robinson who directed the custodians 4 years ago (right before he illegally contracted them out...) to 'deep strip' the 200's [at the high school] while school was still in session.

This lead to the release of asbestos into both the air and waste water. OSHA investigated and documented this release, and directed the District to 'inform in writing' all affected employees (domain of OSHA) of their 'exposure'. The district never complied, rather they appealed their fine, got it reduced, and I am guessing just paid the fine.

Ouch. This does not reflect well on Jim Robinson if it's true (and at this point I have no reason disbelieve it).

This is also not the first time I've heard this. I was unable to find any information on the Democrat-Herald or Express websites, but I started looking around the Oregon OSHA website and lo and behold, something. I'm just not sure what.

For example, this is from the incident that I think best tracks with the email I received (though I had to ditch the formatting):

Violation Summary:

Three (3) serious violations
Initial Penalty 1500
Current Penalty 450

Each violation has a link; all are labeled 'asbestos'. The dates on the violation are from June and July of 2004.

There is also a record under each of initial penalty and a notation that suggests a settlement - again, this tracks exactly with what is in the email.

The problem is that the notations are full of jargon and ID numbers instead of actual words. But the timing is right.

While this does not in any way excuse Rick Alexander's behavior, it does suggest he's not the only one who needs to go to detention.

Oh, and if you go here and search for Lebanon, you get several results for the LCSD above and beyond the one I cited above.


Roxy said...

This makes me sick to my stomach. If it's true that they stripped the asbestos illegally, while school was in session, ....

There are no words. You don't mess with asbestos. There's a reason it's frickin' dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Please be clear. Lebanon School District, TN not OR.. Roxy do not jumb ahead of yourself until you know the facts.

TN and OR big different.

Anonymous said...

Like to take back the previous comments. The violation stated for Lebanon, was when the Janitors stripped the floor without clear direction from the Superintendent. Right after that they were all laid off. It all occurred on the same day. One incident at 3 different location. They were corrected immediately when it was discover.

Roxy said...

anonymous: Whoops.

"Do not [jump?] ahead of yourself until you know the facts."

Lebanon Truth said...


This happened several years ago and is not eligible to be considered in the current evaluation of the superintendent. The then-sitting school board was informed of the situation and it was reported in the press. If any action was going to be taken against Robinson, it should have been done by the board at that time.

We are concerned that three board members are going into this evaluation meeting with their minds made up to tank Robinson. While we believe that, if there are facts that indicate Robinson has made mistakes during the review period, then these should be brought up and discussed with him. Absent some sort of outrageously bad behavior on his part (which is verified), he should be given a chance to correct his mistakes in the next review cycle.

With respect to the asbestos situation, we understand that the district received advice from a contracting company that the asbestos could be safely removed by the custodial staff. The custodians were trained by the contracting company. Then they failed to follow the protocol. One of the high school teachers reported the situation and the district immediately corrected and abated the situation.

Yes, asbestos is a really, really serious issue that should be treated with due care. However, in this case, you may believe that Robinson did not exercise enough care, but it is not true that he acted without any care.

Dennis said...


Can you find anything in the local press about it? I couldn't, but of course that doesn't mean it's not there.

Anonymous said...

From Lebanon Express June 23, 2004
Asbestos stops floor stripping at LHS
BY A.K. DUGAN, Lebanon Express writer
Students and teachers have returned to Lebanon High School classrooms that were closed last week because of concerns about asbestos exposure.

Procedures taken by the district have been reviewed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Dottie Boyd, a natural resource specialist in air quality who works with asbestos issues, said the district did not violate state law and did everything it should have.

To get a jump start on laying down new flooring over existing floor tiles during the summer, custodians working on swing shift began early late in May to strip floors in the hall known as "double-load."

About a week later journalism teacher Mark Whitson talked with Principal Ken Ray. Having been a janitor, he knew the method being used to strip the floors had a potential to release asbestos.

The method, Whitson said, was standard for years, using a liquid chemical stripper and a rotary machine with an aggressive pad, one that abrades the surface once the finish is off.

Asbestos exposure is serious, Whitson said. "It concerns me in terms of kid's health because the effects may not show up for years. It takes time for problems to manifest."

Air tests were conducted late the week of June 7. A portion of the hall was closed down at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 14, and sealed off after test results came back. Asbestos levels were found to be above acceptable limits, said Superintendent Jim Robinson.

Eight teachers and their students had to find other spaces to meet. The classrooms involved are four on each side at the west end of double-load.

Additional air tests conducted June 14 came back two days later showing no fibers in the air. The air had not been treated since the first tests, Robinson said. Results of swipe tests, also negative, on the same day did not return to the district until Friday, June 18.

Air tests check for asbestos in the air; swipe tests are done on samples of dust and sediment, said LHS Principal Ken Ray.

The rest of the building also was checked and found to be clear of asbestos in the air, he said.

PBS Environmental, a company that specializes in industrial environmental consulting and is handling environmental issues for the district, conducted the tests.

The hall was opened up about 3 p.m. June 18.

Floor stripping has been postponed until school is out for the summer, Robinson said. The last day of classes is June 29. Teachers end their year on June 30.

PBS Environmental will advise on the method used before stripping is resumed.

Boyd said the DEQ received two complaints about possible release of asbestos fibers at LHS during removal of wax from flooring.

DEQ rules didn't apply because custodians were removing wax, which Boyd said schools do all the time, rather than performing abatement. Nevertheless, she reviewed what occurred with Robinson, PBS officials and the complainants. The district made a good call in stopping the work, removing people from the area, and conducting tests, she said.

Robinson and Ray both said they don't know why one test came back positive.

Robinson said there may not have been enough liquid used in the process to keep asbestos from becoming airborne or the liquid may not have been picked up quickly enough. If it dried out, some fibers may be been released.

Ray said multiple areas inside and outside of the eight classroom area were tested.

Kim Fandino, president of the Lebanon Education Association, said she has asked union representatives to investigate.

"We want to make sure it doesn't happen again and to make sure all safety precautions are taken," she said.

Several teachers are checking with their health care providers to see whether they have been impacted or not, she said.

Two parents called the Lebanon Express to talk about their concerns about having students in classrooms with potential asbestos fiber exposure.

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