News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Karen Dillon, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Workers, guests may have been exposed during renovation
March 21, 2006 - The Kansas City Health Department has closed the Clarion Hotel KCI after discovering workers and guests had been exposed to asbestos during renovation.
Health officials said Monday they think up to 20 workers may have been exposed since the project began at least two months ago, said Don Pickard, a spokesman for the department.
They think exposure to guests probably was much lower, but the Health Department is sending letters to all guests who stayed at the hotel since Dec. 15, Pickard said.
Pickard had not seen the letter, but he said “it would apprise them of the situation. The prudent thing to do for anyone who had exposure is to get them some kind of notification.”
Guests can then monitor their health and possibly get a chest X-ray, he said.
The Clarion was closed March 9 and could stay closed for possibly two months until the environmental cleanup is done.
Cleanup includes destroying bedding, linens, mattresses and curtains.
“Everything that is in there is going to have to be decontaminated,” Pickard said.
The city is conducting an investigation with the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. A separate investigation is being conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Bert Malone, interim deputy director of the health department. Penalties could be assessed.
Asbestos is used to reduce the chance of fires, but it has serious health risks, including lung cancer, said Rex Archer, director of the department.
Archer said the level of exposure for guests was probably “extremely low.” However, the exposure for workers who were handling the materials for hours was much higher.
The hotel owners had a building permit to do the renovation, but not to remove asbestos, officials said.
The workers also did not have training for asbestos removal and were not certified, as required by state law.
In fact, many of the workers were employees of the hotel.
The owners of the hotel did not think there was asbestos in the tiles, because the building had been constructed in the 1970s, about the time the federal government began regulating asbestos, said Bernard Hurley, head of Family Environmental Compliance Services. Hurley, who specializes in environmental cleanup, was hired by the owners after the health department closed the hotel.
The hotel, at 11832 N.W. Plaza Circle, is owned by Hulsing Properties LLC.
The owners could not be reached Monday, but Hurley said they had named him spokesman. The hotel has about 190 rooms, but only 30 were being used during the renovation, Hurley said.
The Hulsing company earlier this month purchased Lawrence’s largest
hotel, the Lawrence Holidome, and another hotel in Manhattan.
Hurley said the company had a meeting planned with employees on Friday to discuss the situation and allow them a chance to ask questions. “We are following all the procedures more stringently than what the law requires,” Hurley said. “The owner is being completely proactive.”
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