CCAC Boyce campus. Photo by Steve Powell.

A Verona-based contractor says it will appeal an Allegheny County Health Department order fining it and revoking its license after it completed asbestos removal at Community College of Allegheny County’s Boyce campus that inspectors say was done without the proper testing or following proper protocol.

CSI Construction Co. Inc. faces a civil penalty of $22,785 for removing containment areas around asbestos it removed from Hallway 2N at CCAC Boyce in Monroeville in August, health department records from December show. CSI also faces fines due to improper asbestos removal at three other residential properties, and for work it completed in West Deer Township.

“The county’s being ridiculous — absolutely insane. They have these new employees who are really pushing the envelope,” says Heddy Richard, president and CEO of CSI, to whom the recent order was addressed. “At CCAC Boyce, we made sure we did the abatement on the weekend … We were protecting the students by removing the containment, the plastic sheets.”

CSI has until Jan. 14 to pay the fine or appeal the decision.

CCAC Boyce campus. Photo courtesy CCAC.

A CCAC spokesperson said the decision to remove the containment and allow students and staff to walk through the affected hallway “was carried out by the contractor, CSI Construction, without the prior knowledge of any CCAC employee.”

“While we were disappointed to learn of this unauthorized action undertaken by a third-party contractor, the college has no reason to believe that students and/or staff have been adversely affected by the situation,” spokesperson Elizabeth Johnston said.

Chris Togneri, a health department spokesperson, would not elaborate on details of the case, citing the possibility of an appeal by CSI.

County officials previously suspended CSI’s asbestos abatement license on Oct. 2, 2017 for six violations, including failure to post warning signs at an asbestos site; failure to remove asbestos-containing material to prevent the release of fibers during removal and/or disposal; and failure to directly transport asbestos-containing material to an approved landfill within eight hours of removal, according to health department records.

Exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing material can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and might lead to other respiratory problems, according to the Pittsburgh nonprofit Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP).

“Allegheny County Health Department has told us in the past that they can’t write asbestos-related enforcement actions quickly enough — the case volume is that huge,” says Patrick Campbell, executive director of the Regent Square-based organization. “While people may think asbestos abatement concerns are a thing of the past, it very much is a problem
right now … so we remain concerned about the high number of violations being flagged by the health department.”

Campbell declined to comment specifically on the CCAC Boyce case or the fine facing CSI.

County officials recently added a host of documents to the online docket of asbestos-related actions, which include the following actions: 

— The City of Pittsburgh, Deller Professional Services, General Contracting Corporation, Schaaf Excavating and Unis Demolition Company are collectively responsible for a $38,500 civil penalty stemming from the demolition of blighted properties without proper clearances.

— Health department officials notified Deller Professional Services on Dec. 14 that it could face civil penalties for removing containment barriers while demolishing a Pittsburgh building before an inspection was completed.

—  Health department officials notified resident Kevin Fisher on Dec. 14 that he could face civil penalties for renovating a Penn Avenue property in Pittsburgh and removing potential asbestos-containing material before obtaining an asbestos survey. 

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music magazines PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He has been contributing to NEXTpittsburgh since January 2020. He lives in Greenfield.