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OSHA investigates fire house

Published 3:41 pm, Friday, September 27, 2013
  • Work is halted at the New Canaan fire house as air quality test results come in. New Canaan, Conn. Sept. 24, 2013. Photo: Tyler Woods
    Work is halted at the New Canaan fire house as air quality test results come in. New Canaan, Conn. Sept. 24, 2013. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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Fire house renovations were halted Thursday, Sept. 19, after an Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigation into the air quality was anonymously requested by a firefighter, Bill Oestmann, superintendent of Buildings and Fleet, told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday morning.

The investigation cost the town time and money, according to Oestmann. After taking time to sample the air quality, Oestmann said the project was behind schedule by a week and had to come to the selectmen to request $8,500 in additional expenditures as a result of the delays.

"OSHA found no issue but had to research the whole building and stopped the project for two and a half days," Oestmann said. "We went above and beyond. We brought on an environmental company, EverGreen (Environmental Solutions) to make sure not only the contractors performed correctly but to make sure the air quality is good."

Oestmann said the town hired EverGreen at the start of the abatement last month. He said that EverGreen was doing its own samples, which have started coming in and show no problems. OSHA's air quality test results will not come in for some time, and the organization did not ask that work be stopped, the town did so voluntarily while waiting for the results of the EverGreen samples.

Work will begin again on Thursday Sept. 26, Oestmann said.

Robert Kowalski, OSHA Federal Bridgeport Area director, whose jurisdiction includes New Canaan, confirmed that OSHA was investigating but would not comment further. Currently, the truck bay, which opens onto Main Street, is being renovated. Because there's lead paint and asbestos, the area is off limits to everyone but construction workers. The trucks are being kept in the back parking lot.

The renovations are in two phases, of which $575,000 is in the budget for 2013-14, which covers electrical and plumbing systems, ventilation in the basement and reinforcement of the floor on which the trucks are parked. The plan would also add Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and leave room for an elevator.

The second phase would be a renovation of the upstairs living and meeting areas, where the firefighters sleep several nights a week. That is set to cost roughly the same amount, for an overall project budget of $1,050,000.

Selectman Nick Williams was none too pleased with the extra expense and delays, which he demonstrated by floating the idea of stopping the project after Phase I.

"Part of the project is to redo the living quarters of the workers? Maybe we don't have to do Phase II," he said at the meeting.

Fire Department Chief Jack Hennessey said the air is safe to breathe and the firefighters are in no danger.

"I think town has done everything they're supposed to do," he said. "I think there are some miscommunications. There were rumors spreading around that the air was dirty, and I assured them it wasn't. And the tests came back and it wasn't."

Not all his workers had got the message however. After the meeting, four firefighters standing by their trucks in the fire house parking lot said they were unaware what the results of the tests were. All of them asked not to be quoted, but said the results of the air quality tests were news to them.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCMNews