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Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 11:34 a.m.

City administrator's office tells Ann Arbor employees not to worry about radon and asbestos in city hall

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city administrator's office sent out an e-mail to all Ann Arbor city employees on Tuesday with an official response to recent reports about radon and asbestos in city hall.

While radon readings inside city hall were found to be as high as seven times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's action level, the city never received a citation because the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't consider it a violation unless the levels are 25 times above the EPA action level.

Both the police officers union and the city's administration plan to do their own testing of the air quality in city hall before police begin using the newly renovated basement locker rooms.

The following is a copy of the e-mail from the city administrator's office:

Thumbnail image for Roger_Fraser_March_2010.jpg

City Administrator Roger Fraser's last day on the job is Friday. He's retiring from city government and taking a job with the state treasurer's office.

Larcom environmental quality

In light of recent media reports, the following information is provided for all employees to note regarding the Larcom City Hall building’s environmental quality. Since the Larcom City Hall renovation project began in 2009, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) staff have visited the worksite on multiple occasions. These visits all ended with the same results, no violations were identified or issued to the city.

The renovations included a significant removal of asbestos containing materials. Any asbestos abatement work conducted during Larcom renovations has been monitored and tested by a third-party consultant certified to do such work. In addition, third-party air quality testing companies have not been affiliated with the abatement project contractor. Abatement air quality testing includes the collection and analysis of daily clearance samples with the results being provided to the city prior to allowing City Hall occupancy each morning.

To date, there have been zero instances of unacceptable clearance samples which would prohibit occupancy of the building by staff or the public.

As the Larcom renovation project nears completion, multiple improvements to the building’s environmental quality have been made, including:

  • Asbestos abatement has been fully completed in the basement and first floor and a portion of the second floor. Asbestos from the sixth floor was removed a number of years ago.
  • A state-of-the-art radon ventilation system was installed in the basement and air quality testing has been completed by a certified third party consultant to ensure it is working properly and will be tested annually.
  • A new ventilation and air handling system with new duct work was installed in the basement along with new duct work on the first and sixth floors. This work was important as it improves City Hall air quality and ventilation which adds to overall employee comfort.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

have a cigarette.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Agree with Huron74 -- I suggest that all of the city administrators move their offices to where the police used to be instead of sitting in the ivory tower.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

There are a number of questions being asked here that are answered in a story I wrote last week. Check it out here: <a href=""></a>


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

With the remediation steps described, it sounds safe to me.


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

So it is tested; and the results have been what? The article suggests that 100 pCi/L would be what they were comparing against as the MIOSHA standard is suggested as 25 times the action level of 4 pCi/L. or 100 pCi/L. By this measure it was &quot;safe' before as well. Again, it is suggested from the article all is good, but what are the numbers. Did they reduce the 20's to less than 4, or is it merely less than 100 pCi/L. Are the &quot;clearance samples&quot; for asbestos fibers or radon? My assumption is asbestos. From your response Ryan; is the state of the art air handler a dedicated radon mitigation system or a new air handler that will dilute the radon by the drawing in a mix of fresh air? It sounds like it is new air handler that will aid in the radon mitigation through the addition of &quot;fresh&quot; air but not a purposed build radon mitigation system. Floors are segregated to minimize air exchange between levels

Top Cat

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

All they have to do is hold their breath. Come on, that ain't so hard.

David Cahill

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

Why does MIOSHA require 25 times the EPA action level to issue a violation? Why isn't any excess over the EPA action level enough?


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

MIOSHA and OSHA usually just ask employers to come to standard. They are not really like a police agency. If they heavily fine an employer they could bankrupt it. If they heavily fined Ann Arbor the taxpayers would pay for it. You cannot bring back the lives lost or injured. Just stop the current infliction.

Jake C

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 3:50 a.m.

@kmgeb2000: The problem with that is that I could easily spend as much time at work over the course of a 30-40 year career as I would in my own home. If I spend 8-10 hours a day at work, 4-6 hours elsewhere, and 8-12 hours at home, that's still a massive amount of exposure. Especially if you work in a building that doesn't have windows that open to the outdoors, when I do that all summer long at home.


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Because the MIOSHA and OSHA numbers for whatever the issue (radon, PERC, etc) are typically for an 8-hour exposure period representing the working day. Not a lifetime or 30 year exposure, like living in you home or residence.


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

So that installation of a 40k radon ventilation system dosent implicitly suggest there was a radon problem the city wasnt dealing with? Seems like an expensive option for circumstances the city administration basically denied . . .


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Obviously the first time they dealt with it, it didn't work.


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 7:03 p.m.

Radon was discovered, they dealt with it, how is that not dealing with it? It spiked, they dealt with it. How is that not dealing with it? According to the articles the high levels were intermittant and the city brought them down each time. What else you going to do?


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

Buildings are old, not up to current standards, there's chemicals in the water, food, building products, containers, packaging, the soil, and in the air, that are both naturally occuring and man made. What you going to do, live in a bubble? Who pays for the bubble? Tear EVERTHING down and start over using current knowledge and techniques? Who pays for that? Is it practical? How do you trace the source of a cancer in a world full of carcingens? How do you identify genetic resistance or affect of all the bad stuff in the environment? The affect of time, quantity, quality, and an infinite number of variables, including stress? Look at the agent orange fiasco? Farm labor exposed to pesticides? Pedestrians exposed to auto exhaust? Fish exposed to mercury? How about vaccinations? Uncalibrated x-ray and MRI equipment? Who do you blame? Chinese sheetrock, toys, and toothpaste? Tylonol? Drug side affects? Coal miners and black lung? Have we stopped using coal to produce electricity? So if the police con't have faith in the government agencies that the rest of us put out faith in, then why should we have faith in the police? Can we hire another police force if we're not satisfied with this one? Where does it end?


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

Your arguement is similar to saying burn down your house if the basement leaks. Or put in a sump pump. Radon is easily mitigated by proper ventilation. The home system is similar to a sump pump. City Hall's will be a larger version. My concern is that they do on-going testing. The old system didn't work and they inadequately tested for over a decade. Dumb.


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

Because somebody doesn't have faith in a second party, you shouldn't have faith in the first party??

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

For those curious, the new radon mitigation system came at a cost of about $40,000, according to Bill Wheeler, who is overseeing the renovation work being done inside city hall as part of the police-courts building project. And here's Wheeler's written explanation of the new ventilation system: &quot;The basement has an air handler unit that is just for the basement. The air handler draws in a mix of fresh air and blows heated or cooled air to the various rooms in the basement. (The air is heated or cooled by circulating hot or cold water from the boiler or chiller through coils in the air handler.) The basement air handler unit is new. The basement has all new ducts to distribute the air from the air handler to the various areas, and these zones have their own thermostats.&quot;


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 11:44 a.m.

The danger is radon build up to high levels. This ventilates it out into the open air so it is dispersed. My concern is that it was reported that a system was installed in the 90's that may have never worked. Testing should be on-going to avoid a repitition of the earlier oversight. Radon testing. Not &quot;air quality&quot; that looks mostly for dust. Better late than never, I guess.

Linda Peck

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

How does this improve the radon ratings?

Tom Joad

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Easy for him to say; his office is on the top floor


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

well if I worked there, I'd feel &quot;more comfortable&quot; now....NOT!


Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Really want to solve this? Move the senior city bureaucrat's offices down there (including the city manager) until independent tests show for a fact that it's clear of radon and etc.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

Leadership continues to be sadly lacking.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

This idea has some merit. I had heard that in the early days of the chemical industry, duPont required plant managers to house their families on the grounds of the factory. What better way to ensure a safe place to work than to put oneself in the way of harm. The mayor, city manager and council should reside in the basement if the space is believed to be safe but questions linger. Their presence would certainly provide some weight behind their statements. Do I believe this has a chance in a million of actually occurring? Nope.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

........... and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.