Asbestos abatement at APD building prompts concerns among employees

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Asbestos abatement inside an Austin Police Department building this week raised concerns within the department, while city officials maintain everything is safe.

“I have a weird wheezing cough that I thought was from allergies, but now I’m not so sure,” one employee noted in an email this week.

The work was being done on the first floor of APD’s Downtown Patrol Building.

“I do NOT feel safe at all going into or around the patrol building,” another employee wrote.

Contractors had been performing asbestos abatement in order to allow plumbers access to the sewer lines there.

KXAN investigators have previously reported on extensive plumbing issues within Austin Police Department buildings.

On Friday, APD produced a letter from the city’s Buildings Services Department to indicate there wasn’t a threat to employees’ health.

“Air sampling conducted during the work within the Mechanical Room, adjacent to the work area, and ambient air samples collected on the second and third floors of the building indicated fiber levels outside the work areas remained below OSHA and Texas Asbestos Health Protection Rule (TAHPR) levels throughout the project,” contractors wrote.

Contractors also indicated that no asbestos fibers were found within the contained work area.

Yet concerns from employees prompted Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday to ask that they be moved.

“The Department worked along with me today, they’re getting people moved over to a different building, the main headquarters,” said Casaday.

An APD spokesperson told KXAN on Friday, “If employees do not feel comfortable working in their current workstation, they have been provided alternative workstation locations.”

KXAN has reported on asbestos concerns throughout the city of Austin’s older buildings.

Asbestos is a commercial name for six naturally occurring minerals that are ideal for use in building materials. When asbestos is handled, it can break apart into microscopic shreds that can enter the lungs and cause deadly illnesses including cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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