Claremont Reservoir health risk

By Kurtis Alexander, Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday May 15, 2002

Utility district officials deny charges of mishandling asbestos 


One of two reservoirs found to pose a “serious” health risk to employees of the East Bay Municipal Utility District was the Claremont Reservoir, a covered reserve of 8.1 million gallons of drinking water off Claremont Avenue. 

Alleging that carcinogenic asbestos dust could have splintered from the transite roof of the reservoir and harmed workers on site, the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health stuck EBMUD managers with six citations last week, ranging from failure to survey asbestos locations to a lack of hazard assessment effort. 

The most severe allegation, classified as “serious” because it could lead to physical harm or death of employees, according to Cal-OSHA officials, was failure to promptly clean up hazardous material once it was discovered. 

EBMUD managers are responding to the charges with dismay. 

District spokesperson Charles Hardy said the district has been monitoring air quality at the reservoir, since receiving concerns about airborne asbestos from employees, and contends that the employees were never put in any danger.  

“At no time did we come close to the limit Cal-OSHA sets for health hazards,” he said. “In most cases, we were 10 times below that limit.” 

The district will appeal the “serious” citation and perhaps others, Hardy said. It’s not because of the $3,350 they are being forced to pay, it’s because of principal, he noted. 

“We are confident that our employees have been safe,” Hardy said. “ What’s more important now, though, is not dealing with Cal-OSHA but dealing with our employees.” 

The 22 gardeners that work for EBMUD are responsible for cleaning the asbestos-laden roofs of the district’s more than 150 storage reservoirs, and their union representative was who first took up issue with the asbestos. 

Long-standing issues between employees and management have strained recent labor relations, but Hardy said that managers have been sensitive to this and have responded diligently to the gardeners’ asbestos complaints. 

The employees have not been directed to work at the sites in question, and management has brought in health professionals to assess the sites, he said. 

Employee representatives did not return phone calls before press time. 

Cal-OSHA spokesperson Dean Fryer said penalties for the citations are due by June 10 and EBMUD is required to correct the situation by this time as well. 

In addition to the Claremont Reservoir, the larger Central Reservoir in Oakland is also cited in the six citations given to EBMUD. Other district reservoirs are under investigation too. 

“We don’t hand these citations out frequently,” Fryer said. 


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