TOSHA resolves asbestos issues with Read House in Chattanooga

Image: WTVC

The owners of The Read House Hotel say that the Tennessee Occupational Health and Safety Administration (TOSHA) has issued a ruling after an investigation into asbestos at the hotel.

The Read House said on February 6th that "there was no finding that anyone, employee or guest, were ever injured or actually exposed to any asbestos materials in the hotel."

The investigation came after an employee complaint in August.

The Read House says as part of the resolution, TOSHA agreed to eliminate one of the citations, downgraded all remaining citations to "Other Than Serious", and also reduce the fines.

Related | Historic hotel in Chattanooga faces 12 citations, $4,500 penalty in asbestos investigation

TOSHA also agreed that all citations have been addressed and abated by The Read House. And it says the parties agreed that would be no liability on the part of the Read House or its owners.

Here's the full statement from TOSHA, emailed to NewsChannel 9 by Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Director of Communications Chris Cannon:

Inside a building the age of The Read House OSHA standards require the owner to assume pipe insulation and other building materials contain asbestos and any work with these materials be conducted in a specific manner to assure employees are protected. A survey of the building did discover some pipe insulation contained asbestos. The material was in a pipe chase that guests would not be exposed to. The presence of this material is very common in buildings constructed during the time the Read House was constructed.

Tennessee OSHA determined personnel working inside The Read House did not approach maintenance activities with the presumption of the presence of asbestos. The necessary precautions, as required by OSHA standards, were not taken and Tennessee OSHA issued citations and penalties as a result. Tennessee OSHA did not document actual employee exposure to asbestos.

The owners of The Read House did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to accept the findings in the interest of settling the inspection with Tennessee OSHA. They agreed to correct each of the items cited and comply with the standards going forward.

During the conference with the employer, Tennessee OSHA deleted a recordkeeping violation, and associated $500 penalty, for failure to provide the OSHA 300 injury and illness log within 4 hours and reduced the fine for the remaining 11 violations from $4000 to $3510.

Read House officials were pleased with the ruling.

"We are very thankful that we were finally presented with the opportunity to sit down with TOSHA and review the facts surrounding the investigation and subsequent citations. I think there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation concerning what prompted this investigation. Now that this is resolved, we can definitively state that there was never any claim or finding that anyone was ever injured or exposed to asbestos at The Read House Hotel. There is a big difference between "actual" asbestos and "presumed" asbestos. There is nothing to indicate that anyone was actually exposed," said Jon Weitz, Owner & President of Avocet Hospitality Group which owns and operates The Read House hotel.

Tammy Sprouse from Marion Environmental, based in Chattanooga, said, "I think it is very important for the public to know that we find asbestos in almost every historic building we have ever worked in. The owners of the hotel retained us so that any asbestos will be removed by a certified and State accredited asbestos firm. The removal is being performed according to EPA and OSHA regulations. The Chattanooga/Hamilton County Air Pollution Board approved the required notification prior to the current demolition and construction activities.”

The Read House says renovation is underway and any asbestos materials discovered is being removed in strict compliance with TOSHA requirements.

A certified asbestos abatement company is handling the removal.

"We are happy to have cleared our name and set the record straight regarding these allegations. We now look forward to completing our renovation and restoring The Read House to the great hotel that many Chattanoogans remember from years past," said Weitz.

The current schedule calls for The Read House to reopen in late summer of 2018.

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