Last month, students at the State University of New York’s New Paltz School received a scare over asbestos removal projects currently being carried out on some of the 40-year-old campus buildings. The project began 1 October and is scheduled to last possibly until 1 December, although campus officials say the work may be done by mid-November.
According to some SUNY students, asbestos waste is simply being piled into a dumpster without any sort of enclosure, raising understandable concern that friable asbestos fibers are being released into the air. Jenna Dern, who lives in the Crispell residence hall, one of five buildings undergoing asbestos abatement, says that the only protection is a piece of yellow tape around the dumpster labeled “Danger: Asbestos” and an orange snow fence on the roof. The asbestos waste is being thrown into the dumpster via a pair of chutes running down from the roof.
“There is dust coming off the building. There are people on the roof doing removal and it is not contained. It’s definitely going into the atmosphere,” she said. Warnings to Crispell residents went out a few weeks before the abatement project began, advising students not to tamper with a drape surrounding the third floor of the building, and instructing them to keep all windows closed. However, temperatures have been unseasonably warm in New York this year. Eric Gullickson, spokesman for the university, claims there is no reason for concern, saying that the dust was due to the removal of concrete, not asbestos.
Asbestos was present in the adhesive under the roof’s metal flashing. Gullickson tried to assure students that the adhesive is not friable, despite the fact that it can become so when exposed to the weather for decades. Dern is not convinced, saying that “…the administration should be more transparent about what construction is going on and what is involved.” Nonetheless, the New York State Dormitory Authority has had an inspector on-site to monitor the project, while the school’s maintenance crew periodically monitors air quality. “There have been no issues,” insists Gullickson.