Inn Demolition Stirs Complaint

Fiberglass Particles and Debris Floating in Air Bring Worries from Downtown Businesses; No Notification to DEP


As demolition of the Tisbury Inn began earlier this week, unexpected high winds caused bright pink shreds of fiberglass insulation and other debris from the project to swirl through Main street, prompting complaints from downtown businesses and beyond.

"My phone was ringing off the hook," said Tisbury health agent Tom Pachico, who is also a town selectman. He said callers were worried about the possibility that asbestos and lead paint were mixed in with the blowing debris.

"There was no asbestos left in the building that we know of," said Mr. Pachico. He said the inn's owners told him they had arranged for the prior removal of the toxic material from the fire-damaged building.

Sherman Goldstein, who owns the inn with his wife Susan, said the asbestos removal was performed in January by Safe Environmental, of Springfield, at a cost of $26,000.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Theresa Barao, said the Goldsteins obtained the proper waiver from the agency in January. After the necessary paperwork is filed and a licensed contractor says it has removed the asbestos, DEP is confident that it has in fact done so, she said.

But Ms. Barao also said Watercourse Construction, the contracting company owned by Dale McClure that is in charge of the demolition process, failed to notify DEP before the project began. DEP contacted the contractor yesterday, alerting him to the oversight, but did not order the work to cease.

Mr. McClure is in the process of completing the one-page form to satisfy DEP's requirements, Ms. Barao said.

According to Kenny Barwick, Tisbury's building and zoning inspector, the Goldsteins went through the proper town permitting process as well.

Tuesday afternoon, members of the demolition crew failed to dampen the bright pink fiberglass they found in the attic before starting to take it apart. The combination of dry insulation and 35-knot winds proved a bad one, as fiberglass wafted down Main street.

"It is a disappointment for me," Mr. Goldstein told the Gazette. "Nobody anticipated the winds. We did everything we possibly could do." He emphasized that everything toxic was removed from the building long before the project began.

Mr. Pachico said calls of concern came from as far away as West Tisbury in addition to many merchants on Main street. One local pediatrician called, to ask about lead paint after a group of children were seen in the area watching the building come down.

"There was lead paint in the building, but I don't think it is made airborne by a demolition project," Mr. Pachico said. "It is made airborne by sanding."

But he did not completely rule out a health hazard. "Dust is always a health hazard," said Mr. Pachico.

The board of health did not do any air quality testing, he said.

Selectman Ray LaPorte, who works at Advest Inc., a business near the former inn, said he also became concerned about the health risks when he began to see the insulation and dust fly around.

"The job had gone too far for us to ask them to stop, the building was about to collapse," said Mr. LaPorte, who was visible outside during the project talking with employees of Tisbury's department of public works, (DPW), the other selectmen, the inn owners and Mr. McClure.

Mr. LaPorte said that the town shut down Main street in the evening hours and DPW spent the remaining daylight hours cleaning up the streets. "In retrospect," he said, "the project should have been delayed a day."

Mr. LaPorte said the selectmen had suggested to the contractor that the insulation be watered down, as is common practice during a demolition. "That he did it or that he didn't do it was his decision," said Mr. LaPorte.

Fire chief Dick Clark, who works at Brickman's - located on Main street across from the inn - said he watched the project from his window and noticed the wind was blowing the debris directly up Main street.

Emily Bramhall, owner of Bramhall & Dunn on Main street, said when she came into the shop at 2:30 p.m. she was really alarmed. "The pine trees in front of the store were laced with pink insulation. The fact is, I could see pink insulation in all the eddy and lee areas. It was all over the rug in the store from people tracking it in. There were piles all around the back parking lot."

Seeing people walking the streets, a mother pushing a baby in a carriage, she grew concerned about the health risks.

Heather Shea, an employee at the Rainy Day shop on Main street, had similar concerns, which prompted her call to the town's health department. She said she was told that the building had already been tested and there was no need to worry.

Insulation welled up in front of the two entrances of the Bunch of Grapes bookstore, said owner Ann Nelson. "A couple of our employees asked the board of health if there was any asbestos and were told no," said Ms. Nelson.

"They could have been more prudent in taking that out before the building came down," she said. "All of us know fiberglass is an irritant.

"But the health risks were relatively small - we got our brooms and trash bags and scooped it all up," she added.

Ms. Nelson took the day of pink insulation in stride. "When we were out cleaning we heard some people say the town should do that. But if all help each other we would be better off. Sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sweet.

"When I saw the stuff you know what I wanted to do?" she asked. "I wanted to pick up the telephone or run to the fire department and thank them that my building is still standing."

Michael Levandowski, a prominent Main street business owner who spoke from one of his LeRoux stores, sympathized with the Goldsteins, but acknowledged he had some concerns.

"The building inevitably had to be taken down," he said. "I am glad to see it behind us."