Newly unearthed 9/29 letter by Epic Environmental to PRSD – same as 9/10 letter with addition of new asbestos tests

Written by Jeff Epstein, editor of Citizens’ Media TV
Copy edited by Ben Szioli

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Citizens’ Media TV has received a new letter by Epic Environmental, as delivered to Pinelands Regional School District on September 29th (download PDF [15 MB]). It appears that this letter has yet to be shared with the public. As of the morning of Tuesday, December 19th, 2017, it is not posted on the district website.

The document was sent to Citizens’ Media TV by Mel Reid, president of the district’s teachers’ union. Reid told us that the letter was provided as part of a large set of documents in response to a public records (OPRA) request. He declined to tell us who submitted the request or what the request was, and we have not seen any of the other documents included in the response. (We received five screenshots, one per page.)

Almost everything in the September 29th report is the same as in the one from September 10th:

  • The title: “Asbestos Roofing Removal Monitoring, Continuing Issues”
  • The concerns, such as, “At this time, it is assumed that the cleaning of the entire roof in the areas containing asbestos was incomplete, and small amounts of asbestos roofing remain in the flutes.”
  • The recommendations: that “rooftop activities [should] cease immediately” and “routine air sampling” should be conducted

There is one important difference: the September 29th report contains additional asbestos tests conducted on September 11th. A single new paragraph that references these new tests has been added:

As a follow-up. Epic collected additional air samples for asbestos and total dust on September 11. 2017 in the areas below the asbestos roofing. No asbestos was detected in the air samples collected, and total airborne dust levels were below the method detection limit.

Although not gone, the new results show lower amounts of asbestos than the existing results from September 8th and 9th (as already published in the September 10th letter). But regardless of the results, the September 29th letter confirms that the problems first revealed in the September 10th letter lingered for almost three weeks – all while students and staff remained in school. It also confirms that the district was told not once, but twice, that “rooftop activities [should] cease immediately.”

It would be more accurate, however, to say that Stephen Brennan was told twice. Brennan serves as the district’s Business Administrator, records custodian, and Board Secretary. He was the sole recipient of September 10th letter and likely the only recipient of the September 29th letter. Most parents did not know about the September 10th letter until October 3rd, when one of them posted about it on Facebook. The superintendent and the majority of the elected Board members were not aware of the September 10th letter until they saw that Facebook post. In other words, the September 29th letter probably arrived before anyone knew that the September 10th letter existed.

Final observations:

  • TTI‘s Jim Guilardi stated at the October 2nd Board meeting that TTI had only been on the job for a week at that point. This means that Epic was likely no longer involved in the project at the time their letter was delivered.
  • An “altered” version of the September 10th letter was distributed by New Road Construction’s Chuck Romanoli at the November 14th private construction meeting. The altered version was also dated September 10th but did not contain the urgent recommendations from the original (that rooftop activity cease immediately and routine testing continue).The author of the September 10th letter, Epic Environmental‘s Jim Eberts, confirmed that the altered version was actually one of the many proposed drafts being considered before the final version was submitted to the district. The September 29th version, also authored by Eberts, is obviously dated differently, does indeed contain those recommendations, and contains a small amount of new information (the asbestos tests).

To determine why this new letter not shared with the public, we contacted Administrator Brennan, every elected member of the Board of Education, and Acting Superintendent Cheryl Stevenson. We also contacted the author of the letter, Epic’s Jim Eberts. We have not yet received any response.

Please support independent journalism: Contribute financially to Citizens’ Media TV, or buy a t-shirt or tchochke.

Page two of the September 29th letter. New paragraph is highlighted

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