The renovation of a northwest Edmonton hotel has even its own staff concerned due to the project’s alleged poor handling and disposal of asbestos.
Employees of the hotel say construction work continued at the New West Hotel despite being issued a stop-work order by Occupational Health and Safety.
“Apparently some of that project includes asbestos abatement and certainly we’re aware of that site and we’re aware of some of the concerns expressed,” Alberta Labour ministry spokesperson Trent Bancarz told CBC.
Bancarz initially said that that an inspection was carried out on July 05, but no stop-work order was issued. But, a source familiar with the matter provided CBC with documents that show Occupational Health and Safety did issue a stop-work order on that day.
Since then, Alberta Labour has confirmed that a stop-order was issued to the hotel because there had been no testing for asbestos. The order was lifted August 18 after testing verified the presence of the material. An asbestos abatement company, C.G.A. Environmental Construction, was contracted to handle the disposal.
Another stop-work order was issued to the contractor, but, on August 23 due to ventilation issues.
Despite the order, the hotel continued to force its staff to work as crews tore down the asbestos, potentially endangering lives.
“They kept busting drywall after the stop-work order was in place,” said Rebecca Grant, a housekeeper with New West Hotel until very recently when she quit her job due to the health risk involved. “It was making me sick. I’d go into work and I’d have a really hard time breathing as soon as I hit the upstairs.”
“It just got to be too much, mentally and physically too much” said Warner Stevenson, a maintenance worker with the hotel who is on stress leave. “They’re just not going about it the right way. They’re not getting permits. The hotel is full of asbestos.”
A man who educates federal employees about occupational health and safety issues, who wished not to be identified, told CBC how the hotel and the crew tapped to clear out the asbestos were handling the job recklessly.
“I’ve gone in at different times of day and night and you can hear banging and stuff being ripped out,” he said. “The construction would go on later at night. Some of the tenants upstairs in the rooms were saying ‘Oh yeah, they’ve been working up here 10, 11 o’clock at night.’ “
The man also noted how the crew was not even equipped with proper asbestos abatement measures.
“You seal off the area, you place ventilation fans there, you wear a mask and gloves. None of the workers upstairs were wearing any of that stuff. I didn’t see any of it around at all,” he said.
He also observed that the crew was simply disposing of the material into the garbage bins outside the hotel, where it could still pose a safety hazard.
The expert fears that even the hotel’s guests could be affected.
“For the residents still living in the rooms upstairs, if the dust gets into a fine powder and gets into the ventilation system, anyone in the hotel can be affected with it,” he warned. “It may be five or 10 years before you could get sick, right? It doesn’t show up straight away.”
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