Friday, October 23, 2009

Metropolitan Police have found airborne asbestos in floor tiles and officers’ lockers at a building used for youth interrogations, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

But union officials contend that police knew of the presence of the hazardous material in their building for months.

Officials with the Department of Real Estate Services detected what they suspected was asbestos during a walk-through of the building at 1700 Rhode Island Ave. in Northeast Washington on Oct. 6, according to a timeline released Thursday by police spokeswoman Traci Hughes.

“They had their environmental contractor run air-quality tests the next day and when they received notification that test results indicated the presence of [asbestos-containing materials] they sealed the locker room, the boiler room, and 2 storage rooms. This occurred on 10/16/009,” the timeline read.

However, documents and e-mails obtained by The Washington Times indicate that officials were notified about the problem when officers arrived for work on June 25 and saw signs posted for asbestos abatement work by Multi-Task Environmental Consultants, LLC.

On June 28, an e-mail shows that Facilities Management Division director Jane D. Morrissey assured the union’s safety officer that asbestos testing was done in the command staff offices and that otherwise the project was a matter of carpet replacement.

Ms. Hughes on Thursday did not respond to questions about the e-mails.

Though signs were posted in late June, union officials contend their members were not made aware of any specific precautions or potential hazards until recently.

Kristopher Baumann, president of the union that represents D.C. police officers, said the building has been in continuous use without any health or safety precautions conveyed to more than 30 detectives, sergeants and officers of the Youth Investigations Division — in addition to an undetermined number of youths who have passed through the division.

On Oct. 19, Capt. Kimberly Chisley-Missouri informed members in an e-mail stating that almost two weeks earlier, on Oct. 7, air tests contained “possible asbestos containing materials.” Only then did police officials seal off the locker rooms.

On Oct. 20, members were informed that hazardous materials officials would begin emptying and testing the contents of the lockers. By Oct. 21, Capt. Chisley-Missouri told members in an e-mail that five of the six lockers tested may have asbestos.

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