Hollister R-V School District officials in Hollister, Missouri spent Wednesday, August 11, preparing for the new school year by opening the area’s high school to students from
Hollister Junior High School, because of a leak in the junior high school building.
Hollister Junior High, with its 28 staff members and 192 students, will be closed for a minimum of two weeks, beginning with the start of the new school year on Thursday, Aug. 12.
The temporary relocation is the result of a burst water pipe on Thursday, Aug. 5, according to Hollister R-V Superintendent Tim Taylor. The break, which occurred when no one was there to observe it, continued all night and resulted in the junior high building being flooded by about two inches of water.
The water was not a hazard, but when the floor tiles started peeling on Saturday, Aug. 7, school officials saw that the mastic used to hold them down contained asbestos.
The mastic is not a surprise. During most of the last century, and up until 1989, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acted to ban it, asbestos was used in a number of flooring products, including floor tiles and the mastic, or glue, used to hold them in place.
What is a surprise is the age of Hollister Junior High – a mere 26 years, having been built in 1984, or well past the late 1970s, when asbestos’ health hazards had been confirmed and industry was well on the way to abandoning its use, even in insulation products.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the asbestos-containing mastic is more difficult, and more expensive, than might be suggested by its appearance. These mastics are commonly black, and readily identifiable in buildings predating the late 1970s, especially in homes with finished basements where tile was used to cover the cement floor.
Asbestos itself has been identified as the primary cause of asbestosis, some small and non-small cell lung cancers, and mesothelioma, a pervasive cancer of long dormancy which eventually begins to spread very rapidly, consuming and destroying large amounts of vital tissue and vital organs. Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma – which commonly occurs as malignant pleural mesothelioma, in the lungs – are given about a year to live.
Fortunately, Hollister R-V School District officials have apparently developed an AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) plan, and are maintaining it. AHERA, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title II provisions, passed in 1990, requires all U.S. schools to develop, maintain, disseminate, make available, and adhere to an asbestos identification, monitoring and remediation plan.
Maryland Heights-based Horizon Environmental LLC has been called in to rectify the asbestos-containing mastic problem. Horizon is a three-year-old private company owned by Michael Renfroe which operates with a staff of about 9 and is licensed in the state of Missouri for environmental remediation. The company also operates under the name Horizon Environment.
Mastic removal will take about a day, according to Taylor. After that job is completed, Horizon plans to perform both surface and air quality tests for the presence of asbestos fibers. If both come back negative for contamination, the next step will be to lay new tile, which is expected to take another 12 to 13 days.
As Taylor pointed out, the overriding concern is not getting the job done quickly, but insuring that it is done in such a way that it doesn’t become a health hazard to returning junior high students or staff.
Another plus is the fact that the district last year added eight classrooms at the high school, so shifting the junior high population and staff won’t be as burdensome or confusing as it might otherwise be.
Finally, insurance is expected to cover the cost of replacing floors damaged by the water – a cost expected to be somewhere between $175,000 and $200,000.
Sources: Hollister School System website, Springfield News Leader, EPA website, KY3 News