What’s a little dust? Depends. If it’s crystalline silica dust, now being called “the new asbestos,” it’s deadly serious. Well, so says OSHA. But maybe not so much if you’re a condo owner. Here’s the deal: our association’s contractor just got busted by the Health Department for crystalline silica pollution. Curiously, our uniquely experienced board and management at 111 East Chestnut Condominiums have been oddly silent. What’s that all about?
By way of background, besides having Chicago’s premier property management company Sudler driving the proverbial bus, we’re lucky to have a bona-fide expert in the area of air pollution on our board. 111 condo owner and part-time resident, Dr. Serap Erdal is Associate Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. There Erdal operates “a research program in exposure and health risk assessment for environmental and occupational hazards.” Most notably, her areas of expertise include: human exposure and risk assessment for cancer; indoor and outdoor air pollution; and fine and nanoparticle exposure and risk assessment.
Wow! Great! We’re safe! Or, maybe not. Where was Sudler and Erdal’s expertise during the first six months of our Concrete Facade Repair Project? Nowhere apparently.
1. On March 26, 2019, Sudler Property Management and 111 property manager, Sara Rudnik announced: “This Spring and Summer we will be performing a concrete facade repair and maintenance project. This project will include exterior concrete repair, sealant replacement, and localized concrete painting. It will also include interior injection work at leak locations within some units.”
2. On April 4, Rudnik, said: “Dust containment will be assembled but as you are aware, concrete work is dusty. We’ll do everything we can to minimize it. We can review any necessary cleaning once the scope of work is determined for your unit.”
3. On May 20, the project began, and according to numerous homeowners, nothing was done to ameliorate the toxic dust. Not only that, according to the 111 maintenance staff, they had to clean up dust that permeated a number of units here. Some report as much as a ¼ inch of toxic dust within their units.
4. According to the Chicago Data Portal, on August 15, the Chicago Dept. of Public Health came to inspect. They spoke to 111’s engineer and were apparently re-assured that the project was compliant with Municipal Code. They observed no dust and went away. And the work sans dust abatement continued immediately thereafter.
5. But on November 26, the inspectors returned. This time they had evidence. And the contractor Quality Restoration, Inc. was issued a citation by the Chicago Department Of Health: Ticket #E000030955 re: Municipal Code 11-4-760. CDPH Inspector, John Singler, underscored then that crystalline silica dust is now widely accepted as “the new asbestos.”
HEALTH EFFECTS OF THE NEW ASBESTOS
Per the U.S. Department of Labor’s website: “Breathing in very small (“respirable”) crystalline silica particles, causes multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that leads to disability and death. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica is related to the development of autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular impairment. These occupational diseases are life-altering and debilitating disorders that annually affect thousands of workers across the United States.”
QUIS CUSTODIET IPOS CUSTODES
There have been seven (7) board meetings and numerous homeowner complaints between the moment the project began and when finally the Chicago Department of Health issued its citation.
And on January 21, the board was asked in writing: What did the Board and management do to ameliorate the residual crystalline silica dust from the facade project since the project’s inception? Why didn’t management do anything to control the dust after the August 15 visit from Chicago Dept. of Public Health?
And on January 23, at an open board meeting, those questions were reiterated to the board and specifically to Dr. Erdal. But as of this posting, there’s been no response, nada, not a word.
The famous quote, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, comes to mind. It translates roughly, “Who is watching the watchers?” The poem continues roughly, “They keep quiet about the girl’s secrets and get her as their payment; everyone hushes it up.”
But we’ll keep watch. We’ve got eyes on the building. As the Facade Project is only about half done and on hiatus currently due to weather, it’s set to resume again this Spring. Stay tuned.
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UPDATE 1/27/20: Some 8 hours after posting this article, KSN attorney Robert Kogen, counsel for 111, responded to the questions posed to the board noted here above. He said: “Quality Restorations is in charge of making sure that they follow all required procedures. If the City of Chicago has any issue, they will deal directly with Quality.”
And there you have it. Boldly! Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
UPDATE 2/13/20: CITY OF CHICAGO, a Municipal Corporation, Petitioner, v. Quality Restorations Inc. Findings, Decisions and Order, Liable by Plea. Fine $1,200.
UPDATE 3/2/20: A notice went out to residents this morning from 111’s Property Manager, Sara Rudnik. Subject: The Façade Project will resume March 9. Rudnik said, “Do not use A/C units during work hours (Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm) when work is in close proximity to your unit. It’s further recommended you cover your HVAC unit vents to minimize dust from entering your unit.”
UPDATE 3/30/20: Contrary to the law and the Governor’s sheltor-in-place order, property manager Sara Rudnik today moved forward with the Facade Project. And in spite of the previous City fine, the contractors continued to work without dust protection. See this. PS For those locked in their Units, Rudnik wants you to remember this.
UPDATE 3/31/20: Today, the Chicago Department of Public Health spoke to Quality Restoration. According to CDPH: “Jack hammering has been postponed for the next thirty days or more.”