Construction workers at Niwot High School near Boulder, Colorado, found traces of asbestos in a girls’ gymnasium locker room. The discovery forced the school to close for several days in order to allow state environmental and safety inspectors to examine the locker room and other parts of the school for traces of the dangerous mineral. Subsequent tests also revealed traces of asbestos in the corridor outside the locker room.
School officials cancelled classes and sent home students, faculty and staff pending the results of the inspection. John Poynton, a spokesman for the St. Vrain Valley School District, said that the school would reopen after the inspectors released their results and gave the “all clear” signal. He also said that inspectors and cleanup crews would work through the night to insure that the school was safe for students to return to class.
Workers discovered that asbestos-laced ceiling tiles in the girls’ locker room had been disturbed during the school’s spring break. The preliminary plans are for the area to be sealed off until the end of the term and for specialized asbestos abatement crews to remove the material during the school’s summer vacation. The school was undergoing a renovation project estimated to cost over $20 million when the workers found the contaminated tiles.
A custodian at an elementary school in western Canada also found asbestos in the school library. Doug Strachan, a spokesman for the Peach Arch Elementary School in Surrey, British Columbia, confirmed reports that the janitor found “a small quantity” of debris from wall insulation that contained vermiculite asbestos. The school called in local safety inspectors, who found additional amounts of the hazardous mineral in three of the school’s classrooms.
Mr. Strachan said that the school district took immediate steps to insure that the safety of students and faculty was not compromised during the process. He said that inspectors tested the air quality before the cleanup efforts started, then ran a second series of tests after workers completed the abatement project. He assured parents that the classrooms and library passed the latest set of tests before district officials allowed the school to resume classes.
Peace Arch Elementary Acting Principal Brad Helland acknowledged that the word “asbestos” “scares people”, but expressed his confidence in the testing and cleanup processes and that the school has the students’ “best interests at heart”. He also stated that he informed the students’ parents about the findings and the remediation project in a letter and that he would be available to hear questions from parents about the process.
School district officials also notified WorkSafe BC, the provincial agency in charge of worker safety and environmental regulations, about the presence of asbestos at Peace Arch. The agency has strict regulations on how work crews handle, dispose of and remove asbestos-laced materials due to the link between asbestos exposure and the occurrence of pleural mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the fluid lining around the lungs. Many older buildings have asbestos insulation in walls, around pipes and in ceiling and floor tiles.
Sources: Denver Post, BC Local News, DailyCamera.com