Asbestos found in Honolulu Hale, fear of exposure to public

Renovations at Honolulu Hale are drawing major health concerns.

There’s fear that city leaders and the general public may have been exposed to asbestos.

KHON2 wanted to know how this happened and what city officials plan to do to fix the problem.

KHON2 was told that this asbestos problem should have been fixed years ago. So now some councilmembers say they want to make sure it finally gets done.

Renovations to the City Council chamber on the third floor of Honolulu Hale started a week ago.

With the building more than 80 years old, there’s always concern with asbestos dust flying around when walls and tiles are taken out.

There was concern Thursday afternoon that a door leading to the offices of staff members may not have been properly sealed during construction and that could possibly expose asbestos to the staff and the public.

Councilmember Stanley Chang says the work should never have been done at all.

“Now that they’ve sort of opened Pandora’s Box what do you do?” KHON2 asked.

“We absolutely should not be finishing the renovation leaving the public health and safety in danger,” said Chang.

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi says she’s raised concerns about asbestos in the building for more than ten years.

Are you worried that people that your staff people in the building have been inhaling this for years?” KHON2 asked.

“That’s what I’ve been saying that there’s asbestos and mold,” said Kobayashi.

She says she put in $14 million in the budget to fix the problem in 2003, but it was never done.

So it was the administration then?” asked KHON2.

“Yes the administration used the money to clean up some other areas. I don’t know but they didn’t clean up the city council areas.” explained Kobayashi.

Kobayashi says she wants get another estimate to see if it can finally get done. She points out that that the general public visit regularly to testify. Even school children sometimes take tours of the historic building.

“But do we have the money for it?” asked KHON2.

“You know when it comes to health and safety we’re gonna have to do it because it’s not just our health and safety it’s all the members of the public,” Kobayashi said.

A spokesman for the city says it has taken procedures to limit the possible exposure and the renovation was actually requested by city councilmembers.

The price tag for the renovation is $21,000. It’s not clear if it’ll go up after Thursday’s asbestos discovery.

Air samples were taken Thursday and the results will come in Friday. KHON2 will let you know what those are as soon as KHON2 gets them.

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