Report: DHEC previously cited Marion Fire for 19 violations involving asbestos

(Photos from South Carolina DHEC report)

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) cited the Marion City Fire Department back in April for 19 violations involving the removal of asbestos at the fire station, according to a DHEC report.

The detailed report says DHEC got a complaint about the asbestos back on March 31.

The complaint says:

On March 31, 2017, the Department received a complaint call referencing unpermitted work at 107 East Bond Street located in Marion. This structure is the Marion County Fire Department. The caller specified that scrapers were being used to pull up floor tile and a shop vac was used during the cleanup. The structure did not have an asbestos building inspection performed. The removal of floor tile occurred in the middle of March and the room has been used by multiple people (for meetings) since the removal. The room had a stand-alone air conditioning unit and had been turned off. After the initial notification, Asbestos Section inspector Kenny Garcia asked that the room be quarantined until an asbestos building inspection could be performed.

The report says DHEC performed an inspection on April 7.

On April 7, 2017, inspector Garcia performed a complaint inspection at the site. Inspector Garcia met with maintenance personnel: Randy Brown, City Administrator: Alan Ammons, and City of Marion Fire Chief: Trey Cooper. The room in question had water intrusion issues for a long time and the floor tile was very loose (except around the border of the room). There were a few small areas of tile that were still in place and there was visible broken tile around the border of the room. Greater than 90% of the black mastic was still intact. A large icemaker that was in this room had been removed and cleaned by fire department personnel. Chief Cooper contacted regional DHEC authorities after the removal, and was told that a new floor covering could be installed. Inspector Garcia informed Chief Cooper that a limited asbestos building inspection and project design (to delineate contamination) needed to be done before the room could be reoccupied and before new flooring could be put in. The Department is still awaiting confirmation of these documents. It is suspected that both the floor tile and the mastic are asbestos containing.

The report includes pictures of broken floor tiles that contained asbestos taken by inspectors.

Two former firefighters said the firefighters were told to remove the tiles and weren't provided with breathing apparatus or protective clothing.

RELATED: City of Marion spends thousands to remove asbestos found inside fire station

Most of the violations include the removal and some for the disposal of the asbestos.

The report says:

For the duration of an abatement project, the asbestos owner/operator shall ensure that: Each worker and supervisor employed at the abatement project site meets the applicable training and licensing requirements of this regulation.

ABC15 News reported back in May the city spent $30,000 to remove the asbestos.

Marion City Administrator Alan Ammons told us then the asbestos had been in the building for a long time, but wasn't discovered until floor tiles were pulled up following all the flooding from Hurricane Matthew back in October.

DHEC officials said they requested the recreation room, as well as adjacent rooms, be closed and a contractor hired to identify what contamination may exist.

Ammons and Ralph Walton Cooper, III, a.k.a. Trey Cooper, the Marion fire chief, are both charged with misconduct in office; violations of pollution control act; and conspiracy to violate the pollution control act, according to indictments filed on Nov. 2, 2017.

The two were arraigned last Friday morning and both granted a personal recognizance bond.

The indictments allege that, between Feb. 1 and May 1 of 2017, Ammon and Cooper knew that the City of Marion Fire Department Building contained asbestos and allowed fire department staff, volunteers, and/or members of the community to be exposed to asbestos and/or be present in asbestos contaminated locations during the demolition and preparation of the City of Marion Fire Department Building.

The indictments also allege that both men allowed “asbestos containing waste to be discharged into the environment” and conspired to do so.

Ammons' and Cooper's said they're not guilty of the charges against them.

The City of Marion is allowing the men to remain in their respective positions until their cases go to trial.

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