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Afterword: The Strange Case of AAR Contractor
April 1, 2004: Last July, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, held a peer review in New York City of findings about airborne pollution resulting from the World Trade Center collapse. Recently, a report of that review appeared on the Net, in the EPA document "Summary Report of the Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster". The peer review had two tiers of participants. The first was a group of 7 reviewers-- experts in areas such as air and transport monitoring, environmental chemistry, public and occupational health and other related subjects. The second tier was made up of some 50 observers. Observers were not members of the general New York City public nor was their role passive: they were to comment and provide input. The observer tier included representatives from New York City legal, environmental and health agencies, plus area universities. Also included were city council members, a community board member and representatives from downtown neighborhood groups.

Another listed observer was "Alex Salvagno". Representing "AAR Environmental". At the time of the peer review, Alex Salvagno, a contractor specializing in environmental clean-ups, was facing federal indictments on multiple charges. Ones of operating a racketeering conspiracy to violate clean air and toxic substance laws, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Salvagno has since been convicted. Salvagno's company at the time of his criminal enterprises was AAR Contractor, based in Albany County in upstate New York. AAR Contractor had the same New York State Department entity address as AAR Environmental.

For roughly a decade, Salvagno and AAR perpetrated asbestos abatement frauds which impacted public buildings across a wide area of New York State. Buildings included elementary schools, hospitals, prisons, hotels, churches and state offices. The most notable example was the New York State Capital Building in Albany. Salvagno and AAR frequently either didn't remove asbestos from buildings they were contracted to abate, or did so without the required treatment: doing what are called "rip and skip" operations, releasing "snowstorms" of asbestos particles into the air. Workers were not provided with adequate safety equipment, but were supplied with phony training certificates. Many were underage or recent immigrants. In order to meet laws requiring that abatement be verified by independent laboratories, Salvagno set up a dummy lab, with himself as hidden owner. One method of scientific testing employed at the Salvagno lab was to hold air filters out of windows of moving cars and after removing flies caught in the process (the windshield effect) claim results came from an abatement site.

At the time of the EPA Peer Review regarding post 9/11 airborne pollution in downtown Manhattan, Alexander Salvagno was only under indictment. Indictments are only accusations. But given the nature and breadth of these particular accusations and their EPA source, why would upstate environmental contractor Alex Salvagno be included in this New York City focused, EPA sponsored peer review? A review of this magnitude, dealing with long term public health issues with the potential to affect thousands of people? QT has followed the AAR case for several years. One thing that initially caught my attention were the many unanswered questions surrounding the case. Particularly involving political connections. AAR was after all, a major public contractor. Another point of interest was the degree of AAR deception. This was a sophisticated, complex and deeply cynical fraud.

During the AAR trial, witnesses quoted both Alex Salvagno and his father Raul (an AAR partner) as sometimes pooh-poohing asbestos as much of a real threat. Perhaps the Salvagnos said this to spur low level employees into working in dangerous conditions. If so, they were heartless liars and cheats. Or perhaps they said it to assuage their own conscience about leaving asbestos particles floating in the air of grade schools they'd been paid to clean. In that case they were slightly guilty liars and cheats. But even if the Salvagnos truly believed asbestos posed little risk, they were still liars and cheats-- with their entire professional life a giant scam. From which they collected millions of dollars from taxpayers and individual homeowners. With Alex Salvagno serving on industry boards and giving expert advice on an environmental danger which to him, didn't really exist.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Copyright (c) 2004 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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