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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cayuga Centers in Auburn for improper asbestos removal and fined the organization $8,016.75. 

OSHA issued Cayuga Centers three "serious" violations including not having a competent person conducting an asbestos exposure assessment, not conducting an asbestos exposure assessment and lack of engineering control during the removal process, said Carmelle Durand, acting area director of the Syracuse OSHA branch. Serious violations, Durand said, may result in an injury to an employee as a result of exposure to the hazard.

The citation issued on Oct. 24 comes after a nearly three-month investigation following construction work at the administrative building, 101 Hamilton Ave. According to the inspection detail, OSHA said four people were potentially exposed. 

Durand said they've received abatement paperwork, showing that the asbestos has been properly removed. Cayuga Centers has also paid the fine, which had been reduced from an original $10,689. Durand said citations are based on a low, medium and high gravity scale, and those that are low or medium have the opportunity to reduce the fine by 25 percent if they do not contest the citation. Cayuga Centers' citation was considered a medium or moderate citation, she added.

Edward Hayes, chief executive officer of Cayuga Centers, told The Citizen in June that asbestos was found in floor tiles that were being removed as part of office renovations. Hayes said Thursday that air quality tests showed that the asbestos was never airborne, and therefore never a health hazard. He said no employees have claimed they are sick because of it, though they have complained about the smell of paint during some of the construction work.

"This has created a greater sense of awareness about being careful around certain materials and not making assumptions about certain materials," Hayes said. "Sometimes you drop the ball.

"We feel that this was a fair response on their (OSHA's) part," Hayes added, "because they recognized it was an honest mistake, and we responded once we made an honest mistake."

Durand said she expects the case file to be closed soon now that the penalties have been paid, and the abatement process is finished, though OSHA still could do a follow up inspection. 

"At this point it (Cayuga Centers) has not been targeted," Durand said, "but that's not a definite no."

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Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter