Asbestos work to start at Aspen City Market |

Asbestos work to start at Aspen City Market

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Nighttime work is scheduled to begin early next month at Aspen’s City Market, allowing workers to remove asbestos from the ceiling of the grocery store while customers and employees are not present.

The supermarket will be open for business during the day, according to the plan.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has approved a revised permit to handle the asbestos work, according to Jeff Adams, environmental protection specialist for the agency. The city of Aspen’s Engineering Department is expected to make a formal decision soon on whether the work can take place at night – outside the allowed hours of construction in the city.

Trish Aragon, city engineer, previously indicated she is open to allowing the night work, but the formal application was submitted just this week.

The work will add a new component to an ongoing remodeling project that has already given the shopping experience at City Market a less-than-polished feel. Scaffolding will be erected to hold up decking above the grocery shelves and aisle space in a couple of areas within the store. The space above the scaffolding will be encased in plastic and asbestos removal will occur within that contained area, according to city officials.

The work will occur at night, when the store is unoccupied, except for the crew from Denver-based American Abatement, said Jannette Whitcomb, the city’s environmental health program coordinator. The firm, certified to do asbestos work, is well qualified to handle the project, she said.

The permit for the asbestos removal is under the state’s purview, but city officials will be keeping tabs on the project, and Whitcomb said she has been in contact with state health officials.

“I just want to make sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed,” she said. “We’re just making sure that everything’s done right.”

Air monitoring outside of the containment area will be done each morning, after the night’s work is complete, and city officials expect to receive daily reports regarding the testing.

In addition, the state is likely to inspect the project at some point while it is under way, Adams said. Not all asbestos removal work is inspected by the state, but having it occur in a building that is used daily by the public is somewhat unusual, he said.

“We probably will have an inspector up there because of the nature of the project,” he said. “We want to make sure the requirements are followed to protect the public who is going in there.

“This kind of rises up on the priority list.”

Engineering controls will be installed to ensure the asbestos is removed without endangering the public or employees, he said.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Denver office did receive a complaint in November alleging that employees at the store had been exposed to asbestos, carbon monoxide and other potential dangers. A compliance officer investigated, but has not ruled on the allegations, an OSHA spokesperson said Tuesday.

Asbestos can be dangerous if its fibers are dislodged and inhaled. It has been linked to various respiratory ailments, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Its presence is not unusual in buildings of a certain age.

The presence of asbestos in City Market’s tile flooring was identified early on, and most of the tile has already been removed, leaving exposed concrete in the store aisles. The material was then discovered in a stairwell and in the ceiling during a roughly two-week shutdown of the supermarket in November. The discoveries delayed the planned reopening of the store by a couple of days.

Starting next week, removal of the tile that remains beneath store shelves will begin at night, as will installation of the scaffolding and decking, and lighting above it.

The plans call for wetting and scraping the asbestos material off the concrete ceiling. High-powered vacuuming and wet-wiping the surfaces will be part of each night’s wrap-up of work, followed by air sampling, Whitcomb said. The work on the ceiling is expected to finish by the end of January or in early February.

The remodeling of City Market is expected to continue until mid-June. When it is complete, the updated store will feature a full bakery and deli, and an expanded section for perishable foods.

Currently, in the midst of the work, construction consumes part of the parking lot in front of the store, and customers access the grocery from a makeshift entrance off the alleyway next to the building. Inside, the false ceiling that once existed has been removed, along with the flooring, and the front windows are covered, eliminating natural light from the interior.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. own both the City Market and King Soopers grocery chains, along with other grocery retailers.

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