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City reaches settlement with fire chief who had firefighters remove asbestos

A Missouri city has reached a settlement with its fire chief who was accused of making firefighters remove asbestos-containing materials from a building.

Hannibal fire chief Tim Carter will remain in his position until the end of the year when he will retire with a full pension as part of the settlement, reports the Quincy Herald Whig.

It is alleged that Carter made firefighters remove material that contained asbestos from the former KHQA-TV studio on Palmyra Road in Hannibal, which had been donated to the fire department in August 2008.

In January 2009, Carter reportedly had the firefighters remove floor tiles and insulation from the building, according to an email the fire chief allegedly sent to then-fire board members James Behymer and Jason Janes on January 22, 2009. Carter later said that the only tiles that firefighters removed were loose, reports the news source.

The work raised the ire of some firefighter union members.

“We did not feel, as firefighters, that it was our job to be a construction crew,” Dale DeLaPorte, a now-retired Hannibal fire captain who performed work in the KHQA building, told the news source.

One day while performing the work, DeLaPorte said he found some strange material in a dumpster. After doing a bit of checking, he was able to identify it as asbestos-containing pipe insulation.

DeLaPorte’s discovery seemed to have confirmed the findings of an asbestos firm’s July 30, 2008 inspection of the building. On August 11, 2008, Klingner and Associates asbestos building inspector Michelle Beck reportedly sent a letter to Carter informing him that asbestos was found in six of the 22 samples that were tested from the KHQA building.

Beck reportedly informed Carter that the material should only be removed by trained professionals with the proper equipment. Such methods are common in asbestos removal because the inhalation of the deadly mineral’s fibers can cause a range of deadly diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

DeLaPorte says that the firefighters were just wearing street clothes and dust masks during the alleged asbestos removal work.

In his email to Behymer and Janes, Carter admitted that perhaps he should have informed the firefighters that they were working in a building that contained asbestos but he added that they were not instructed to handle the deadly material. Carter also appeared to place some blame on the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1211, the firefighters’ union.

“My only concern is the negativity that Local 1211 may generate stating that ‘the Chief knowingly placed his men in harms (sic) way without any regard to health and safety,'” Carter allegedly wrote. “The only thing I perceive that could have potentially prevented this was for me to provide a copy of the initial report to the employees. To (sic) bad Local 1211 didn’t express these concerns when they expressed concerns with working on the building in the first place. Instead of being reactive now, we could have been proactive and prevented any of this.”

Carter still claims that he had no way of knowing that the pipe insulation in the building contained asbestos, according to the news source.

However, the settlement brings the matter to a close. Still, some firefighters said they are disturbed by the agreement, which allows Carter to receive pay until the end of the year.

“Everybody’s happy that it is done and we can move forward, but a lot of guys are questioning what a person has to do to lose their job,” Captain Charles Paxton, president of Local 1211, told the news source.

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