Firm: Nassau Coliseum air safe despite asbestos

Inspection reports show air quality is safe in

Inspection reports show air quality is safe in public areas of Nassau Coliseum, according to a consulting firm hired by Nassau County. (Credit: Newsday File, 2008/Alan Raia)

Asbestos contamination has been found in four locations throughout the Nassau Coliseum, but inspection reports show air quality is safe in public areas of the arena, according to a consulting firm hired by Nassau County.

Additional inspections are being conducted by the state Department of Labor and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

An inspection last weekend by J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc. of Hauppauge found asbestos in private corridors and stairwells; in a tunnel below the exhibition hall, and in an ice plant room, the company's report states. Each location measures about 10 square feet and is used primarily by maintenance staff, the analysis found.

"The areas of concern were immediately isolated and access was restricted," said firm owner Brendan Broderick.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said "the building is safe for our employees, patrons and users." A remediation plan began Thursday night.

Broderick said signs were posted to prevent people from entering contaminated areas.

But Garden City attorney Joseph Dell, who represents 75 arena employees, contends the contamination is more widespread and may have affected public areas of the building.

Dell represents electricians, carpenters, plumbers, laborers and mechanics who claim to have gotten sick from asbestos, a known carcinogen. A Zamboni driver with 30 years of experience, he said, has mesothelioma, while a laborer who has swept the floors for decades has stage-four lung cancer.

"The clock ticks every day for my clients," said Dell, who is preparing a class-action suit against Nassau County.

Officials would not comment on the prospective lawsuit, and facility manager SMG did not return calls for comment.

Asbestos concerns at the Coliseum first were raised after an electrical foreman suffering breathing problems collected samples in March from 11 spots throughout the building and sent them to labs in Holbrook and Florida for analysis.

Seven of the sites came back positive for asbestos, including a loading dock where road crews often eat meals, and a catwalk above the arena, according to laboratory documents provided by Dell's firm. Arena employees often used leaf blowers to clear debris from the catwalk, potentially scattering asbestos into the air, Dell said.

Some of the sites identified by the foreman were tested by Broderick. County officials say they are testing the remaining sites the foreman cited.

Labor Department spokesman Leo Rosales said the agency is performing air quality tests but could not say when results will be ready.

OSHA's Long Island office opened an investigation last week after worker complaints, an agency spokesman said.

Michael Picker, senior vice president of the Islanders, the arena's primary tenant, did not return calls for comment. Last week he said the team expects Nassau and SMG to "take any and all appropriate action."

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in building construction materials as insulation and a fire retardant. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled, causing health problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With Sid Cassese

and Randi F. Marshall

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