VENTURA : County Discovers Asbestos in Building

Tests have confirmed the presence of asbestos in damaged ceiling material that was removed from a Ventura building in which a county drug-counseling program was housed, an air pollution official said Friday.

The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District will consider next week whether to take action against building owner Marvin Jacobs, said Allen Danzig, an enforcement officer with the district.

Jacobs had ordered the removal of the rain-soaked ceiling material without help from a licensed asbestos contractor, Danzig said. Federal and state laws strictly regulate how asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of, Danzig said. Asbestos was widely used in construction materials until the late 1970s, when researchers confirmed its role in causing a number of lung diseases.

Thirty-two employees and 500 clients of the county's Alcohol and Drug Department were ordered out of the leased office at 739 E. Main St. by the county's risk manager after a client reported the possible violation.

One of the samples taken from air within the two-story building showed that the concentration of asbestos fibers exceeded state standards, Danzig said.

Tests taken of material already removed from the "cottage-cheese" ceiling showed it contained up to 7% asbestos, well in excess of the 1% threshold set by federal regulations, he said.

Robert McCord, an attorney representing the owner, said Jacobs was unaware that the ceiling contained asbestos before ordering its removal.

"It was wet, there was an emergency, and the roof fell," McCord said.

Danzig said Friday that Jacobs has agreed to remove all remaining material that contains asbestos from the building.

If a violation order is issued next week, county officials will determine how much of a penalty to assess Jacobs and whether to pursue civil or criminal action, he said.

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