Asbestos in Schools News for January 28th, 2009

In BELLINGHAM, WA, a burst radiator pipe over the Christmas holiday displaced 32 students from Gamma Hall at Western Washington University. The burst pipe, discovered on December 23, 2008, flooded all of the dorms in the building. Costs for the cleanup are $650,000 due to the presence of asbestos in the sheet rock walls damaged from the water. Rather than repairing only the water-damaged portions, all of the walls and floors will need to be replaced with newer, safer materials. The company in charge of the project, Belfor USA, had the building gutted by the New Year, and the anticipated return date for the students was set at the end of January 2009 or the beginning of February. In light of the emergency nature of the project, no bids were taken and Western Washington University chose Belfor USA, which had done work for the university in the past. Most of the students had taken their most important belongings home with them over the holidays. Anything left in the dorms was taken by Belfor to a storage facility where the items were cleaned and restored. According to university officials, anything damaged by the water is the responsibility of the students to pay. Most were covered by their parents’ home insurance policy or the university’s optional insurance policy.

The displaced students were assigned to new rooms until the renovations were completed with the option of remaining in their new rooms or returning to Gamma Hall. In COLUMBIA, SC, a federal lawsuit alleges that a contractor did not remove asbestos from a building owned by the Columbia International University. Environmental Engineering Company Inc.; its parent company, RPR and Associates Inc.; and paint contractor Hyde Drywall and Paint Inc. are the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the university seeking an unspecified amount of money. In the late 1980s, contractors were hired to renovate six of the university’s buildings and to remove the asbestos in them. David Ratchford, a project manager for the university, claimed that there were instances when “they took the material out and they put a material back in that was loaded with asbestos.” In 2007, asbestos problems with those six buildings was discovered — including friable asbestos, which can break off and be inhaled by a person. The painters also failed to use paint products free of asbestos. $100,000 was spent to remove the asbestos from a male dormitory, Memorial Residence Hall, which was undergoing $1.4 million renovations. The other five buildings are scheduled for asbestos cleanup.