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Asbestos Discovered Deep Inside Water Treatment Plant

Embattled Water Utility Admits They Found Asbestos in Basement of Treatment Plant
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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On June 1, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a $19,822 contract with ATC Group Services, LLC, to monitor the air at the city's Water Treatment Plant while a cache of asbestos is removed.

It marked the first time the public was made aware of the haven of asbestos that had been found tucked away deep inside the century-old facility.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that, if inhaled for a prolonged period of time, has been found to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.  Once popular as a form of insulation, asbestos is now considered a liability.

Water Director Mark Lavenberg said that the ATC contract was necessary "to monitor the air during some asbestos removal projects that we have coming up."

The asbestos problem is just one of many that Lavenberg has discovered in his first year on the job.

"During the course of inspections, deep down in the treatment plant, we found some asbestos that is related to an old boiler that is out of service for many years," said Lavenberg.

"Since we're a 24-hour-a-day operation, we need to have to monitoring while we're working at the same time to ensure there are no problems."

The City Council approved the advertising of a request for proposals (RFP) to get a company to perform monitoring at their May 18 public meeting.

Two weeks later, the Council was prepared to hire ATC, a company that considers themselves to be a "leading full-service environmental consulting and industrial hygiene firm."

Lavenberg, who has previously worked for seven different South Jersey water and sewer facilities, said he was familiar with the company.

Lavenberg took over the embattled city Water Utility almost a year ago, making him the fifth man to hold the position in as many years.

After Water Director Shawn Maloney allegedly committed suicide in 2007, the city's Business Administrator took over as Acting Water Director in a "temporary" arrangement that ended up lasting nearly six years.

The past two years have also included two stints where Mayor James Cahill took over and made himself the Acting Water Director. 

Lavenberg said that ATC, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, was the second lowest of the six bids received by the Water Utility for the asbestos monitoring.

He also said he expects to have the asbestos removed from the city's treatment plant, located on Comstock Street in the Second Ward, by the end of 2016.

"We have [the removal of the asbestos] budgeted for this year, so we have it planned for prior to the end of the year," said Lavenberg.