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Asbestos Woes Close the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites
Boston - Peabody
By Stacie N. Galang, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

September 19, 2008 - PEABODY -- The Holiday Inn on Route 1 is taking a forced vacation from customers because of asbestos-removal troubles.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection discovered asbestos, a highly toxic building material, last week as construction crews were renovating the hotel.

As of last Friday, no employees have been allowed to work or guests to stay at the 183-room hotel. Yesterday, employees answered phones at tables outside the building.

"It's currently closed," Health Department Director Sharon Cameron said. "Right now, nobody is allowed in the building."

A man who said he was the hotel manager said the hotel was closed for renovations. He said he started working at the hotel Monday and refused to give his name.

The DEP received a complaint Sept. 10 of asbestos and state workers took lab samples from the tiles and glue being removed, DEP spokesman Joe Ferson said.

The samples returned Friday showed asbestos was in the building; since then, no one has been permitted in the 135,358-square-foot hotel.

Guests who were staying at the hotel were relocated Friday, Cameron said.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos, which has been used for insulation and fireproofing, is believed to cause significant health problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company was also told it needed to hire a licensed asbestos contractor, secure the work area and submit plans to properly remove the asbestos, Ferson said.

As of yesterday, contractors had provided the asbestos-removal plan for its lobby and function area, which has been approved by the DEP and the state's Division of Occupational Safety Asbestos program, Cameron said. She said workers started cleanup yesterday.

The hotel will have to provide a separate asbestos removal plan for its guest rooms, the health director added.

Cameron said city officials had to make a difficult decision to shut the hotel down, but the asbestos was a public-safety issue for both the workers and the guests.

"It was unfortunate," the health director said. "We do try to minimize the impact on businesses."

Building Commissioner Kevin Goggin said the company pulled permits in July to renovate the 40-year-old building. The permits estimated the cost of improvements at $400,000, he said.

"Our goal has been, both Sharon and I, to get them moving so they can open again," the commissioner said.

An investigation by the DEP is also underway, Ferson said. The DEP was still gathering evidence about the incident. The company could face fines, although it's too early to tell, he said.

Ferson said hotel management had not sought or obtained a permit to do any kind of asbestos abatement. The DEP spokesman said he did not know when the hotel could reopen.

"Until the building is deemed clear, we won't be able to open," he said.

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To see more of The Salem News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.salemnews.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

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