Buffalo Grove family plagued by asbestos nightmare

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A family driven from their home for months by an asbestos nightmare is blaming two well-known companies for their frustrating situation. (WLS)

A family driven from their home for months by an asbestos nightmare is blaming two well-known companies for their frustrating situation.

Asbestos was once known as the "magic mineral," making floors and walls stronger and more resistant to wear and tear. It doesn't pose a risk unless it's disrupted, which is exactly what one family said happened during some necessary repairs.

"Once they break the tile they have the fibers released in the air. So you know, this is not the proper way to remove asbestos tile," a contractor explained to the I-Team.

Kasia Mastalic and her husband Greg knew about the asbestos under the tiles in their Buffalo Grove home, but it wasn't a health threat until they say the tiles were improperly torn up after their kitchen flooded.

"We are more concerned about the health and safety of our kids," Kasia said. "One day your life ends and you have to start over from scratch."

The Centers for Disease Control says Asbestos exposure can cause certain cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"As a result we had to get up and move out right away. We left all of our belongings behind," Greg said.

Farmers Insurance had been paying for temporary housing and food expenses since January - but the family has been sparring with Farmers about how to properly remediate the asbestos.

Service Master did the initial work through the Farmers claim. The Mastalics even alerted Service Master about the asbestos in an email. But the family and their new restoration contractor, Zee Kawa, said Service Master didn't remove the tiles correctly, exposing the asbestos.

When the Mastalic family became suspicious, with fibers in the air, they said they stopped the work.

"So the problem is that the tiles, asbestos tiles are never supposed to be chipped when they are removed. And here you can see that almost every tile is chipped," Kawa said.

Service master says: "We and the franchisee take this matter very seriously and sincerely apologize... The locally-owned franchise has worked with the homeowner's insurance company from the start to do the right thing and ensure the matter is properly resolved... franchise management took immediate and appropriate action onsite, as well as reinforced industry protocols and standards throughout the organization, and provided additional training for the employee involved."

Kawa said the family can't live in the home anymore.

But a test at the end of January commissioned by Farmers insurance said asbestos was "cleared for re-occupancy."

Then a February test done by an environmental services business said "Testing indicated the presence of visible asbestos debris and dust in the residence. The home should not be re-occupied until the damaged asbestos is abated and asbestos contaminated areas are properly cleaned."

And a March test conducted by Cook County also detected asbestos.

"They want proof of the contamination and our position is that it's inherent. When you remove the asbestos, it gets into the air the ventilation," Greg said.

Farmers recently offered the family almost $21,500 for asbestos remediation and repairs, but Kawa estimates the cost to be $78,000. However, Kawa's estimate also includes remediation of the second floor, as a precaution, since he says asbestos can travel through ventilation.

A Farmers spokesperson would only say "We are continuing to work with our customer to get this claim resolved."

The Mastalic family said they recently dipped in their own pockets to pay for the rehab. They said they're not accepting repair work insurance money and will continue to fight Farmers.

"At the end of the day you are really feeling like they are protecting their own interest and everyone is forgetting about us," Kasia said.

Since the 1980s, manufacturers in the U.S. have mostly phased out asbestos, but if you are doing any remodeling in your home you should take precaution.

Experts recommend you hire an "industrial hygienist" to inspect your home for asbestos before you do any demo work, especially on an older home.

As suggested by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency web site, residential property owners should hire a qualified inspector to inspect a building for asbestos prior to any renovation or demolition activities, and if mitigation is called for, a licensed contractor should see to the removal of the asbestos.

Full Service Master statement:

We and the franchisee take this matter very seriously and sincerely apologize for the Mastalic's experience. While asbestos is more likely to be found in older homes, especially those built before the 1980's, it's very important for homeowners to be aware of the potential for asbestos. It can appear in a variety of products, such as floor and ceiling tile, insulation, popcorn ceilings and other home related items. If the homeowner is aware of the presence or potential presence of asbestos in the home, they should immediately and properly disclose it to any service provider before work begins.

The locally-owned franchise has worked with the homeowner's insurance company from the start to do the right thing and ensure the matter is properly resolved for the Mastalic's.

In addition, when the situation occurred, franchise management took immediate and appropriate action onsite, as well as reinforced industry protocols and standards throughout the organization, and provided additional training for the employee involved.

Our franchises are committed to providing the highest quality service and ensuring the safety of all customers. We appreciate the trust that our customers place in us, and work to build long-lasting relationships.
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