An order has been issued to prevent public access to the Mackenzie Place highrise, still suffering the effects of a fire on March 15.
The order was issued on May 15 by Peter Workman, the NWT’s chief environmental health officer with the Department of Health and Social Services in Yellowknife.
“On May 14th, I was in Hay River and conducted an inspection of the facility and found that conditions in the building had worsened,” said Workman. “That there was mould growth and that there were other hazards identified. And I have my concerns relating to loose building materials in some of the units.”
The order applies to members of the public, including former tenants of the now-empty building who may want to enter to remove belongings.
Contractors who may be working on the building and environmental professionals can go in, but they have to follow Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) requirements for personal protective equipment.
In a May 18 posting on Facebook, Satdeo Inc., the building owner, advised people that the order had closed the 16-storey highrise because of health hazards.
“Until a new order is received, tenants cannot enter the building to remove their belongings,” it reads. “Satdeo Inc. management regrets the inconvenience caused.”
Tenants previously had a number of controlled opportunities to enter the highrise to remove belongings.
“Until we get an assessment that lays out where the hazards are and where the risks are, we’re not able to allow folks into the building,” said Workman.
Satdeo Inc. is responsible to ensure that no one enters the building without authorization.
Workman said the mould growth in a number of units and water damage were from the time of the fire and afterwards.
“And unfortunately mould grows when there’s moisture present,” he said.
Workman said the loose materials may contain asbestos.
“We don’t want anyone exposed to asbestos,” he said.
Workman noted that the regional environmental health officer from Hay River inspected the building on March 22.
“Based on findings from that, a public health order was issued on the 10th of April to Satdeo Inc. to do some work on the facility and to do some testing, and get an engineering company or an environmental professional to prepare a plan and a test for remediation of Mackenzie Place,” he said, adding that, at that time, there were other requirements from the WSCC and the Fire Marshal’s Office concerning access to the building.
Workman said that, as far as he can determine, it doesn’t appear that any remediation has been completed and further testing or assessment has not been done as a result of the April 10 order.
So on May 15, he delivered a new verbal order by telephone to Satdeo Inc., including owner Harry Satdeo, and followed that up with a written order on May 17.
The Hub unsuccessfully attempted to contact Harry Satdeo for comment about the order from Workman.
Mackenzie Place was damaged by a fire on the 11th floor and by water from the firefighting effort.
The fire displaced about 125 people.
In an April 18 telephone interview with The Hub, Satdeo said he hoped to open the four upper floors of the highrise by June 1.
Also in the April interview, he said an environmental specialist was scheduled to come from Edmonton to assess the building.
Workman is not aware of such an environmental specialist visiting the building on behalf of Satdeo Inc.
The company had no insurance on Mackenzie Place, which contains about 130 apartments.
At the time of the fire, 83 of the apartments were rented.