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Federal Building renovations prompt asbestos concerns

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QUESTION: I work in the Federal Building, where renovations are being done. We hear rumors about mold and asbestos, but GSA has not confirmed these rumors. There are so-called "air quality" monitors on the floor, but no explanation as to what exactly these monitors are doing. Several in our office have experienced scratchy, itchy throats; there is the smell of dust and fine dust particles appear floating on the coffee in our coffee cups. Can you find out whether the building is dangerous, especially for those with respiratory problems?

ANSWER: If you or your co-workers are experiencing any health-related issues, you are encouraged to contact management of the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building.

"We continue to hold regular tenant meetings and reach out to people to keep them informed," said Mike Larson, property manager for the General Services Administration’s Hawaii Field Office.

While traces of expected asbestos have been found and removed during demolition, a qualified abatement company has done all removal "in full compliance with federal, state and local standards," he said.

"First and foremost," he said, tenants should be "rest assured" that there has been no asbestos or mold exposure to tenants as a part of the renovation project.

During demolition phases, Larson said:

» All construction areas are completely isolated and placed under "negative pressure" so that all air within these spaces bypasses building air and is exhausted outside via an air-purifying process that complies with state standards.

Air filters remove 99.97 percent of all airborne particles, Larson said. "Our process is safe for people outside of the building."

» All demolition is done by a qualified abatement contractor.

» All demolition is done under the oversight of an independent industrial hygienist to ensure the contractor meets all safety and health requirements.

"In addition, we have taken a proactive approach by placing air monitors throughout the building in order to establish a base line for tracking the building air quality throughout the project," Larson said.

That all said, with buildings this old (built in 1977), there is always the possibility that building materials may contain asbestos, lead and other potentially hazardous materials that could be disturbed during demolition, he said.

Because of this, the contractor is required to complete a full hazardous materials survey.

GSA received "design funds" from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to renovate the entire Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse complex, as well as construction funds to renovate the entire courthouse and the second and fifth floors of the federal building.

The $121 million project, including design and construction, is scheduled to be completed by 2014.

QUESTION: Where can I get rid of my dead car battery without being charged a fee for disposal?

ANSWER: You can take them to a city Convenience Center. Go to for_Refuse.html for locations and information. Or call 768-3200. State law requires dealers who sell new batteries to accept old ones for recycling.

QUESTION: By law, do I have to have some kind of obituary printed in the newspaper when I die? I don’t want one of any kind.

ANSWER: There is no law requiring such a notice to published.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 429-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail


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