DOH puts hold on demolition work at Fono building — asbestos

reporters@samoanews.com

Samoa News photo taken on Tuesday, June 27, shows a sign on one of the Fono doors pointing to “DANGER” ASBESTOS, Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard, KEEP OUT, AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY… as well as yellow tape noting caution, as it stops the public from entering the area.

Fono employees told Samoa News on Tuesday that DOH stopped the work last week and put up the yellow tape, due to health concerns over the amount of dust coming from the job —  the main Fono building is being demolished to make way for a new Legislative building.

As of yesterday, the work continues to be on hold while further health safety analysis is being conducted, according to Fono employees. There’s no indication at this point as to when the demolition work will resume.

Samoa News observed on Tuesday that the yellow-tape surrounds the Fono building as well as the small building that houses the offices for lawmakers.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale says he is hopeful that the issue will soon be resolved and that he and Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie are waiting for an updated report from DOH.

He also says that the Governor’s Office has been made aware of the work stoppage.

During a cabinet meeting earlier this month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the plan is to break ground for the new Fono building around Thanksgiving in November this year.

BACKGROUND

The question of the Fono Building being demolished was officially opened in 1973 — that’s over 40 years ago. However, calls to DOH to confirm the “Danger Asbestos Notice” being the reason it has taken so long were not returned as of press time.

According to Wikipedia, asbestos began to be used at the end of the 19th century for its physical properties: sound absorption, tensile strength, resistance to fire, heat, and electricity, and affordability. Asbestos use continued to grow through most of the 20th century until public knowledge (acting through courts and legislatures) of the health hazards of asbestos dust outlawed asbestos in mainstream construction and fireproofing in most countries. Prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma, etc. By the 1980s and 1990s, asbestos trade and use were heavily restricted, phased out, or banned outright in an increasing number of countries. The severity of asbestos-related diseases, the material's extremely widespread use in many areas of life, its continuing long-term use after harmful health effects were known or suspected.

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