A north St. Louis County fire district is under investigation by state and county authorities for the removal and disposal of floor tiles, possibly containing asbestos, from a recently purchased building. STLtoday.com reported the story, alleging that the fire district did not allow two asbestos investigators access to the building. The investigators were with the St. Louis County Health Department Air Pollution Control Program and were responding to complaints from residents.

The fire district purchased the building in November from Superior Heating & Cooling and began holding board meetings at the location shortly thereafter. It was noted in the property disclosure at the time of the sale, supplied by Superior Heating & Cooling, that the floor tiles might contain asbestos. It was at one of the first public meetings that a resident made fire district officials aware of the broken tiles located in the meeting room and his concerns that they may contain asbestos, as he had dealt with asbestos removal in his own home previously. The following week when the resident, Pat Boul, returned for the next meeting, the broken tiles were removed, and the floor had been painted.

Boul and other residents of the district noticed that a trash bin behind the building was full of the broken tiles. Concerned for the safety and welfare of residents and other people in the area (as exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to various asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer), the residents took samples of the tile and turned them over to authorities. This was the complaint that county health officials were responding to when they were denied access to the fire district’s building.

When officials arrived at the new district building they were met by Deputy Chief McPike, who did show the investigators to a room where tiles had been removed, but the investigators were quickly removed from the room by another party of three, one of whom claimed to be the fire district’s attorney. The attorney notified investigators that they had to leave the premises until they could supply a court order for the inspection.

The Health Department investigators reported back to their office, and within a week the fire district received a notice of violation for seven different violations, including obstructing county personnel and failure in regard to asbestos abatement projects. However, the fire district’s attorney still expresses non-cooperation without a court order and feels that the investigation and allegations are actually attempts at harassment, as the fire district has been in battle with residents over separate issues for the past year.

The report provided by STLtoday.com notes that the investigators, after being removed from the building, witnessed firefighters going to the back of the building, where the trash bin full of tiles was located, with brooms and shovels in a possible attempt to clean-up the debris. It will be important to determine if the tiles did in fact contain asbestos and formulate a plan to assess exposure beyond the building in which the tiles were removed. Also a determination is needed to be sure if any residents or other people were exposed to the broken tiles located in the trash bin.