Asbestos forces St. Charles Parish Courthouse closure

An emergency order closing the St. Charles Parish Courthouse has been issued to remove asbestos found in insulation around pipes.

Parish President Larry Cochran issued the order, which was additionally issued by Judge Timothy Marcel for the 29th Judicial Court, to close the courthouse today (Aug. 9) through Sunday.

Cochran’s order states the closure was called “due to construction safety issues” related to replacing outdated chiller units.

“A situation has arisen that will require us to close the courthouse completely….,” he said. “During this period, the entire ventilation system will have to be turned off and no one will be allowed entry to the building.”

Additionally, he said the order was issued to conduct “critical infrastructure repairs” in which “there will be no air conditioning service” in the courthouse during the work. He further states the work being performed “will create hazardous or unsafe conditions for employees of the clerk of court to perform their official duties and for the general public to conduct business with the clerk’s office.”

Chief Administrative Officer Billy Raymond said the asbestos was found as part of the $1 million project to install two chillers on the third floor of the courthouse in Hahnville. A state inspection confirmed insulation or wrapping around the chiller pipes has asbestos in the “mechanical room.”

Air tested negative for asbestos, but tested positive in the coating around the elbow area of the pipes, Raymond said.

“The key thing is that none of the asbestos material has been disturbed to make it airborne,” he said.

Darrin Duhe, executive director of procurement and government buildings, said the state Department of Environmental Quality was notified of the find and a plan formulated to bring in a company for the removal.

Raymond said courthouse services will continue at the EOC during the closure.

Cochran said the District Attorney’s Office will not be affected, although the skywalk from the DA building to the courthouse would be closed during the courthouse closure.

Councilman Billy Woodruff said finding asbestos must be reported to the state and requires professionals trained in handling hazardous materials to remove it.

Councilman Terrell Wilson said the asbestos was discovered this past weekend. Wilson added it’s not uncommon to find it in buildings as old as the courthouse.

 

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