Thanks, Charles Rapozo, for caring about us

We need more people like Charles Rapozo.

Who is Charles Rapozo, you ask?

The guy who did the right thing.

As explained in a story in Thursday’s TGI, Rapozo works for the county and has been cleaning the floors of Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall for 18 years. He became concerned about asbestos over a decade ago when people came to him with concerns about the conditions of the tiles.

“I assumed it wasn’t a big thing because I figured they would tell us if there was asbestos in the building,” he said.

But Rapozo didn’t forget and move on and figure no harm, no foul. On his own, he acted. Late last year, he sent pieces of the tile to a lab in Oahu. The tests came back positive for asbestos.

He took it on himself because, he said, he feared for his and the public’s safety. He has seen kids crawling on the ground of the hall. He contacted the Department of Health, which later came to Kauai to inspect the hall. DOH, too, determined there was asbestos in the tiles.

And asbestos is not something to mess around with.

Asbestos is a commercial name given to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, according to the Center for Disease Control. While these minerals have been used for decades in products such as insulation, textiles and wallboard materials, people chronically exposed to asbestos have developed diseases including asbestos, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

For more information about the disease, go to www.maacenter.org/mesothelioma/asbestos/.

Now, before anyone panics because they visited the convention hall recently, the chances of anyone being exposed to asbestos are low. Lenny Rapozo, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said it’s not necessary to close it, per DOH. The asbestos is not being stirred up and flowing around in the air, as far as we know.

And the county is taking steps to correct this health concern. On Wednesday, Lenny Rapozo appeared before the Public Works/Parks and Recreation Committee to talk about the remediation plan.

It will cost $450,000 to replace the tile flooring. The department will submit a budget request before the end of the fiscal year, and the work is expected to begin in January. Flooring in the lobby, exhibit hall, conference room, restroom and storage area will all be replaced, Lenny Rapozo said.

The county also requested that representatives from the DOH come in two weeks to give a briefing on the hall.

“We need to get an update on whether or not we need to shut it down immediately,” said Councilman Ross Kagawa Wednesday.

The credit goes to Charles Rapozo, who stood up and pointed out something he believed was a danger to himself and those who visit the convention hall.

He could have quietly continued to do his work and not, as they say, rock the boat. But he did what was right and what he knew he had to do. While he hoped and prayed there were no problems with the pieces of tile he sent in for testing, he acted when he learned the results.

You’re a good man, Charles Rapozo. Mahalo.

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