PRHS roof: Why working on the roof of an occupied building is bad

Written by Jeff Epstein, editor of Citizens’ Media TV

(This article will be updated as new information is received. If you have a suggestion on how to improve this, please leave a comment or get in touch.)

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LITTLE EGG HARBOR, NJ – The reason to avoid working on an occupied building, especially one containing a sensitive population such as a school, is to avoid the clear health hazards that occur within the first few hours of application. This is due to the toxic chemicals used, including hot asphalt and industrial strength adhesives called mastic. (Here is Citizens’ Media TV’s full coverage of the story.)

According to the New York Department of Health, one of the primary ways of avoiding these health hazards is to schedule the work for when the building is not occupied:

In some cases, the best way to avoid IAQ [indoor air quality] problems is to have the roofing work done when the building is not occupied. Ideally, roofing projects at schools should be planned when school is not in session – in the summer or during holiday breaks.

Working on the roof while the school is occupied is also in direct contradiction to multiple stipulations in the contract between Pinelands Regional School District and Kobithen Roofing and Insulation. This includes:

  • Page 295: “All roof work shall be conducted…in no case while students or faculty are in the building.”
  • Page 404: “All hot asphalt roofing work and masonry replacement work shall be complete by September 1, 2017.”
  • Page 404: “All work after September 5, 2017 shall be performed after 3:00 P.M.”
  • Page 420, in a section specifically relating to the removal of asbestos containing debris: “Areas of the school directly underneath roofing removal will be isolated for the duration of removal activities.”

Regarding the September 1st deadline, for every day that it is missed, the district has the right to penalize Kobithen to the tune of $2,500. The potential fine has added up to more than a quarter million dollars. On October 30th, District Administrator Stephen Brennan stated that district attorneys were looking into it.

It turns out that the new roof was indeed completed before students arrived for their first day of school (September 4 for teachers, September 7 for students). However, since the old roofing material was never cleaned off, it had to be completely undone and then re-done. This reapplication occurred while students and staff were in school for three weeks, despite the urgent recommendations of the district’s environmental consultant.

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