Downtown Needles, CA: Getting answers following fears of asbestos contamination leak at the old Ford dealership.

Downtown Needles, CA: Getting answers following fears of asbestos contamination leak at the old Ford dealership.

Late last week, ZachNews was contacted by a local resident regarding an asbestos leak at the old Ford dealership, located at 539 West Broadway near C Street, in Downtown Needles, California.

The local resident wanting ZachNews to look into the matter after learning that a near by church and school closed over fears of airborne asbestos contamination at the old Ford dealership where crews have been working for months cleaning out old Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) pipes that were removed from 2 construction sites in the Mojave Desert.

After making some calls and emails, ZachNews received a response from the Needles City Manager Rick Daniels regarding the old Ford dealership issue.

According to Needles City Manager Rick Daniels, “In the last few days concerns have been raised about the processing of large diameter pipes within the former Ford dealership at 539 Broadway. Below is the explanation that the City has received and copies of permits. Community Development, City Clerk, and the Building Official have been involved in providing information or preparing this report. The local zoning review application seems somewhat incomplete in that they are not just storing pipes there, but they are processing them to some level. The Business License is more explicit, but still does not match the results from the site inspection. The questions are 1. Is there asbestos in the pipe coatings and 2. If so, are the required state protocols for handling asbestos are being followed in accord with their environmental permits to avoid it from becoming friable (airborne) and thus a threat to health. I am providing you with copies of licenses and permits that have been issued for this project by San Bernardino County and state environmental agencies, I am meeting with the company representative on Monday morning to determine if a cease and desist is warranted until the matter can be clarified. The report also indicates that City staff has been in contact with environmental agencies, met multiple times with the company, and members of the community. Tom Lamb is reported to have decided to cancel Friday classes at the school across the street, and move the Sunday services elsewhere.

Needles City Manager Rick Daniels provided to ZachNews the dates of the local permit as well as a timeline summary and information on the people who were talked to regarding the work at the old Ford Dealership.

** Local Permit: **

  • 3/1/2017: Zoning Permit Letter for “storage for building materials/forklift”
  • 3/7/2017: City Clerk issued business license, with description: “Environmental Contracting/Construction Services”

** Who: **

  • Mike Castro, American Integrated Services, applicant for zoning permit for “storage for building materials/forklift”.
  • Drew Rothe, Project Manager, American Integrated Services – employee of company that employs Mike Castro, site manager.
  • Eleanor, San Bernardino County Fire Department Hazmat – Inquired as to who is responsible for permitting asbestos projects, responded that it is “Department of Toxic Substances Control” (DTSC) – 1-800-728-6942 – message left – 2-day turnaround for response- no call received yet.

** Summary: **

  • 5-9-2017: Met with the operators who indicated that they were not causing any material to become airborne, were operating within the requirements of all of their permits, but to avoid any further complaints, they were moving their business and jobs elsewhere.
  • 5-3-2017: Site visit by building official Mike McGillivray, returning to city with draft email indicating that the tar paper pipe wrapping may contain very small amounts of asbestos at site within their permit levels and not considered hazardous unless crushed and pulverized which is not occurring and that state permit protocols were being followed. Meeting scheduled for Thursday morning with site manager, Mike Castro, to verify appropriate permits are in place, and discuss activities at site. Letter drafted to Mike Castro requesting documentation related to project requirements.
  • 5-4-2017: Meeting held with Mike Castro, site manager, building official Mike McGillivray and Cindy Semione, planning. Mr. Castro described the pipes as covered with “black tar paper”; that no asbestos is at site. Mike McGillivray clarified he thought there was a demolition project occurring at the site, and the pipes were being removed as part of that project. When clarification provided, Mike McGillivray indicated he was certified in asbestos removal and now understands the pipes, the material covering the pipes, and that no asbestos is believed to be at site. Pastor Lamb and Mr. Sunderstrund met with me at the front counter, expressing concern that asbestos is at the site, and that is it not being properly handled. Provided graphic on phone showing exposed pipes with wrap not in proper position to cover pipe, indicating that the white covering on the pipe is asbestos. He indicated he had received a call from someone at the City the prior day, indicating asbestos was at the site, and that while he was at the site, he had overheard a conversation indicating that there was asbestos at the site. They were provided a letter indicating that information has been requested of the applicant to ensure everything is being properly handled, etc. They continued to express concern, and a meeting was coordinated between the site manager, Mike Castro, Pastor Lamb, Mr. Sunderstrund, building official Mike McGillivray and Community Development. Meeting – Pastor Lamb and Mr. Sunderstrund explained their knowledge of asbestos, with Pastor Lamb indicating he was certified in asbestos removal, same as building official Mike McGillivray, and Mr. Sunderstrund indicating he had experience with working with asbestos as well. Mr. Castro explained that the pipes were covered with black tar paper, and that no asbestos was at the site, that the wrap placed on the pipes was for shipping purposes, and no asbestos containment. Statements were made that the City was lying because of the phone call he had received indicating asbestos at site. I left the room to receive email at desk sent by Mike Castro.
  • 5-5-2017: Message left with city staff from property owner at 218 “C” Street, indicating Pastor Lamb had told her that there was asbestos at 539 Broadway and they had shut the school down as a result of improper handling and safety concerns. Mike McGillivray, building official, was asked to contact her and explain that asbestos was not at the site, per the discussions with Mike Castro. Phone call placed to Mike Castro requesting clarification of documentation stating asbestos removal was part of the project, and he responded that a certified industrial hygienist will be at the city on Monday to meet with management and explain the composition of the materials on the pipes, the processes, etc. Phone call placed to Drew Rothe, project manager, requesting clarification of the previous statements about asbestos not being at the site, and the paperwork indicating it was. He indicated that there are trace amounts of asbestos in the black tar paper, and that the only way the asbestos would be released into the air is if it were crushed, which is not occurring. I asked that he provide the same information in writing. What was provided was a shortened version of what was said on the phone, except that the word “asbestos” is not mentioned anywhere in the description he provided “see below: “Per are conversion. This material would be classified as non- friable non hazardous waste. The material( coal-tar wrap) would have to crumble ,pulverized by hand pressure to be released into the air. This material is a tar substance and can not be pulverized by hand pressure. I will be in Needles on Monday and go to City Hall.”

Needles City Manager Rick Daniels also provided ZachNews with documents related to the work at the old Ford dealership.


ZachNews has also contacted on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 Southern California Gas Company and was told that somebody will contact ZachNews within 48 hours to answer questions regarding the clean up project, the work going on inside the old Ford dealership, and address any concerns the public may have.

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