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Iowa DNR investigates Madison School demolition; possible violation spotted

NIT – The Iowa DNR has taken a close look at the demolition and dust storm at Mason City’s Madison School, in response to a letter sent to them by NorthIowaToday.com Publisher Matt Marquardt, alerting them to what appeared to be a potentially dangerous and environmentally hazardous situation at the site where the school stood until recently.

The following is the response sent to the NIT newsroom from Trent Lambert, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Environmental Specialist Senior:

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I am writing in regard to your recent inquiry of the IDNR Webmaster, concerning the demolition of the Madison School building in Mason City, Iowa. Your inquiry/concern was personally received by me this morning. As of this writing, I have researched the asbestos component of your concern and determined that an asbestos inspection and abatement was conducted prior to demolition of the building. I have personally contacted both the asbestos abatement company and the certified inspector who conducted the asbestos inspection prior to commencement of demolition activities. I am currently in receipt of documentation (e.g. asbestos abatement notification and waste shipping manifests) provided by the abatement contractor; and I will be receiving copies of the initial inspection report from the certified inspector in the near future. What I can tell you at this time, based upon the information I currently have, is that it would appear the legal asbestos inspection and abatement requirements were met; and that there should not have been asbestos-containing material present in the demolition debris.

With regard to the dust component of your concern, the Iowa Administrative Code does contain what is referred to as a Fugitive Dust regulation. I have viewed your video footage of the dust at the site on the day in question, at the link you provided with your inquiry. Based upon what I observed in the video, it is very likely a violation of said regulation occurred on that day. That being said, I will need to confer with IDNR Legal staff to determine what, if any, action we will be able to take at this point. While it is unlikely that the day in question was the only day that fugitive dust may have been an issue; it is unfortunate that area residents did not contact us at any prior time during this project, so that we could have responded and officially documented any violation(s) we might have observed.

Additionally, I stopped at the school site this afternoon and observed the on-going activities. As you may already know, there is only a relatively small area of paving left which is being stripped and hauled away. I observed this activity for approximately one hour and the only dust concern I observed was due to off-site tracking of earth, sand, etc. onto 27th St. SW. As vehicles would drive through this area, dust was being kicked-up into the air. I met with the owner of McKiness Excacvating, Bob McKiness, at the site and pointed this out to him. He agreed to arrange for a street sweeper, or other means, to wet the affected portion of the street in order to alleviate the dust from the street.

Lastly, this office did conduct an inspection in response to a complaint regarding the old Armour-Decker site on April 14, 2015. While there were no violation(s) documented at that time, this office is aware of the activities occurring at the site.

Please be advised that I will be out of the office until May 4, 2015; but I would be happy to discuss this matter with you further upon my return, if you wish. I did, however, want to let you know today that we appreciate your inquiry and that we had been actively looking into it.

Sincerely,

TRENT LAMBERT Environmental Specialist Senior
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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ORIGINAL LETTER SENT TO IOWA DNR, APRIL 22, 2015:

Letter from NorthIowaToday.com Publisher Matt Marquardt to Iowa Department of Natural Resources regarding demolition of Madison School:

Dust and debris fly all over the surrounding neighborhood near Madison School
Dust and debris fly all over the surrounding neighborhood near Madison School last week

The school district is tearing down a very old school here in Mason City. As part of our news coverage for NorthIowaToday.com, I went to the school to take pictures and video of the demolition. The demo was on-going for weeks; it is mostly done now. I spoke to residents that live all around the school and they complained about the huge amount of dust blowing from the site. When I went to see what was going on (April 13), I was appalled at the amount of dust blowing from the debris heap. It was so thick you couldn’t breath. The debris had tiny silver particles in it, flying all through the air. People are saying it was (is) asbestos. In fact, my own throat burned for 2 days after my brief visit to the site.

This seems like a very dangerous situation. I notified police, the school district and the city of Mason City about my concerns for public safety. I only received a response from a councilman (Alex Kuhn) and a city official. The official stated “Demolition activities are subject to requirements of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The contractor must conform to their requirements.” Another official said “I spoke with Bob McKiness this afternoon. He agrees that there was fugitive dust leaving the site during yesterday’s demolition activity. He noted that during demolition they encountered an area of extremely dry material. The dry material was blown off-site by strong winds. McKiness’ crew was watering the debris and the pile today to keep dust under control. There are strong winds forecast for tomorrow. He hopes that they will be able to control the dust.”

As I understand it, the school debris is being dumped in an open area on the city’s north side. I am not sure what, if any, safety precautions have been taken or if there are hazardous materials in there.

I do believe the Iowa DNR needs to take a look at this situation, as local officials do not seem keen on making sure the public is protected. Please view the following story and accompanying video for yourselves to see the dust and debris at the demo site of Madison School. I will look forward to your response.

(PREVIOUS STORY)

Matt Marquardt
NorthIowaToday.com Publisher

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