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Police union targets problems at firing range
By Eve Sullivan
STAMFORD - March 30, 2005 - The Stamford police union is aiming to eliminate potential health hazards at the department's firing range.
The Stamford Police Association filed a complaint last week with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifying lead contamination, poor ventilation and asbestos in the range, located in the basement of police headquarters at 805 Bedford St.
"I know the guys are complaining that their eyes are burning and of the constant taste of lead," said Michael Merenda, union president.
The OSHA complaint was filed even though Mayor Dannel Malloy's 2005-06 proposed budget includes $226,057 marked for "pistol range renovation."
"They've told them in the past that they would fix it and they haven't done it," said attorney Michael Colombo, who represents the union. "It's a serious health risk and the police officers can't afford to wait anymore. Their health and safety is in jeopardy."
Malloy said he is looking to fix any problems at the range.
"Obviously, if there are problems, they need to be addressed," he said.
Malloy's budget calls for replacing the ventilation system and bullet trap and cleaning ceiling baffles.
"As long as the Board of Representatives and the Board of Finance don't cut it out, that money will be there July 1," Malloy said.
In a March 25 letter to Malloy, Colombo said he's been informed of numerous health and safety issues at the police department, including a "significant lead contamination" problem within the firing range, as well as "inadequate ventilation," and "asbestos located in the ceiling pipes."
Police officers use the area regularly to maintain their weapons skills, the letter stated.
Colombo said there also is a black mold problem in the men's locker room of the police station, specifically on the ceiling. The letter said "it is visible" and clearly the result of lack of ventilation within the building.
The union's OSHA complaint states asbestos poses a health risk because airborne fibers can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Since the contamination is within a place of business, the complaint stated OSHA has the authority to order a cleanup of the area.
Inside the firing range, things appear old and dilapidated. The steel bullet trap against the back wall and the peg boards on the two side walls are riddled with bullet holes.
"It's unsafe and inadequate," said Sgt. Duncan Stewart, who has been in charge of the range for a year.
During a tour of the facility, Merenda and Stewart said the peg boards provide no sound proofing and collect lead residue. When the range was constructed about 30 years ago, Stewart said, there were no such concerns about lead poisoning.
The lead exposure is made worse by the poor ventilation in the basement, police said. An air quality safety test taken at the range show it's not in compliance.
The firing range is not safe for officers who come for training but worse for those who work there, police said.
Aside from the health hazards, police said the place is falling apart.
Stewart said the moving targets in the range don't work and cannot be repaired because the parts are no longer made. The company that installed the system is still in business, but the system is too antiquated, he said.
Seal order lifted for building closed because of asbestos
ROCKFORD The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency authorized removal this week of a seal order issued for an apartment building closed because of asbestos contamination.
The three-story Blackstone Apartments on Smith Avenue was sealed Nov. 19 after the IEPA discovered, through dust sampling, that improper pipe removal had caused extensive asbestos contamination in the basement. The order restricted public access to the site, meaning that six tenants had to be relocated to other buildings owned by their landlord.
Building owner Joey Sanfilippo hired a Rockford company to remove the contamination for about $30,000.
He submitted a cleanup plan to the IEPA, which was reviewed and accepted. Air sampling performed by the consultant confirmed that the building is safe for people to return.
IEPA spokeswoman Jill Watson said the basement will remain sealed as cleanup continues.
Health problems caused by asbestos typically occurs after decades of exposure. The IEPA acted on a complaint about the building filed Nov. 1.