Following a tipster’s complaint, Tulare County has been ordered to halt demolition of an old building in Pixley Park until it is checked for asbestos.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a notice of violation Monday and directed the county to stop work, air district spokeswoman Jaime Holt said Wednesday.
The county failed to notify the air district of the demolition or to check the site in advance for asbestos, she said. Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause lung disease and other problems.
An environmental company will take samples; if asbestos is found, it must be removed and the county would face a second, more serious, notice of violation, Holt said. However, an air district inspector looked at the site and saw no evidence of asbestos, she said.
County public information officer Melissa Withnell said Wednesday in a statement that “staff does not believe there is exposure” to asbestos.
This is the kind of thing that’s a risk to children.
Christopher Renfro, Pixley resident
“The structure is dilapidated and became a safety concern for park visitors due to its poor condition,” Withnell said.
The county park is an oasis in Pixley, an unincorporated community south of Tulare on Highway 99.
Christopher Renfro of Pixley, who grew up in the community, said he became concerned that the demolition was creating a health and safety hazard to residents and workers, so he called the air district.
“It’s a big red flag when I see this,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that’s a risk to children.”
The safety of all parks visitors and staff is of utmost importance to the county.
Tulare County statement
Renfro, a former schoolteacher, said the plastic fence around the demolition site is not keeping people out.
The county said it will put up a chain-link fence next week.
Renfro said the county was doing the work in-house and could be exposing employees to asbestos, bird feces and mold. In addition, inmates working on the project weren’t given the right kind of protective gear, he said.
Furthermore, the county didn’t get the proper permits, he said.
Withnell said the county is getting answers to questions after residents expressed concerns.
“The safety of all parks visitors and staff is of utmost importance to the county,” she said. “Precautionary steps have taken place in an effort to minimize or prevent the possibility of a health concern due to work on this project.”