Potsdam, NY—After a former employee contracted and then succumbed to the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma earlier this year, several asbestos abatement projects at the Potsdam Civic Center have been completed. Sharon LaDuke had been a longtime employee until she contracted the deadly cancer, which affects the lining of the lungs and thoracic cavity, and which is exclusively linked to asbestos exposure. Although several asbestos remediation and removal projects have been undertaken, some as far back as the 1980s, it was LaDuke’s death and complaints from other employees which catalyzed the recent abatement projects. The basement, upstairs courtroom and a front office were cleared of the carcinogen last week, according to Village Administrator Michael D. Weil, although the upstairs courtroom requires further repair work because the ceiling is not finished.
The Civic Center has undergone testing for asbestos since the abatement process was completed. Over one hundred tests, including background, environmental and transmission electron microscropy tests, were completed. No signs of asbestos were found. Nevertheless, the Civic Center is not entirely free of asbestos-containing materials. The basement, according to Weil, still has some asbestos material. Experts agree that if asbestos material remains in place and stable, it is safe. It’s only when the material begins to age and become “friable” that it poses a danger of releasing microscopic fibers into the air. These fibers, which are respirable and cannot be cleared out of the body, can lead to a number of diseases and conditions, including the cancer mesothelioma. Mesothelioma has a grim prognosis, resulting in death on average only 18 months after diagnosis. LaDuke’s family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit, in which they claim that LaDuke suffered an unsafe work environment, against the village. In a related case, a former senior court clerk, Shelley A. Warner, is also suing the village. Warner alleges that she was fired from her job after expressing concerns about workplace safety due to asbestos contamination. Officials deny this allegation, saying that Warner was terminated for insubordination.