Asbestos in Wickes not cause for concern

Asbestos is being removed from Wickes Hall as a $9 million dollar construction project gets underway, but students can be assured campus is doing everything they can to ensure safety for everyone.

According to Assistant Vice President for Facilities Planning and Construction Steve Hocquard, the asbestos was put in during the ‘60s and ‘70s when it was a common material used to fireproof steel.

The asbestos in Wickes was wrapped around the structural steel to keep it from melting and the building collapsing in the event of a fire.

However, according to Hocquard, they have gone to great lengths to test the air quality for any asbestos contamination.

“It is basically inert,” he said. “The problem comes when you break it loose or it is damaged. When you have it in the pipes and taped up, that’s fine. When it’s puffy and breaking loose into the air, then it’s bad.”

Hocquard said he doesn’t believe students and employees should be concerned.

“Any exposure is not good, but everyone is exposed to some,” he said. “From my understanding, people who’ve really gotten sick are those who worked with asbestos all the time.”

President Donald Bachand also emphasized the safety of this process.

“The asbestos is contained. It’s not just floating around, and there’s no health hazard associated with it,” he said. “The air handling and water quality will be much improved with this project.”

Hocquard also said the material is still legal in certain construction situations, but that the university doesn’t use it at all. The removal process will ensure even higher levels of safety for students as they take out the asbestos during the next few months.

“We try not to add to the problem. It’s even safer than normal now,” Hocquard said. “When doing all this, they eliminate any contact. I wouldn’t mind being around (it).”

Hocquard said that whenever they have done any type of remodeling in Wickes previously, the construction team always made sure to test everything as it went.

The workers who test the air during any remodeling have to be trained and licensed by the state to test for asbestos.

“We use a third party freelance company as well,” Hocquard said. “Even if all we’re doing is wiring, we make sure to vacuum the ceiling tiles as we go.”

The process to remove asbestos has been many years in the process, according to Hocquard. Originally, asbestos was found in old Doan as well as some of the older dorms.

“Most of that was also inert, and even sprayed with glue and painted over, but it’s been removed now,” Hocquard said. “This was the situation we had to deal with when we came in.”

As to why the asbestos wasn’t cleared off the entire campus all at once when it was discovered, Hocquard said it basically came down to funds.

“When you go in to remove this, you basically have to gut the area. Now, we have millions of dollars to do so and after this, it will be completely removed as much as we know about.”

The removal process itself is also complex. Hocquard explained that the workers have to set up negative air chambers with fans to ensure they don’t blow air and dust into the other parts of the building. They also plasticize the entire area, including the carpet if they plan on keeping it.

“Anything that gets contaminated by it has to be disposed of in a land mine,” Hocquard said. “From my understanding, they also wet things down so it doesn’t become dust and scrap it off by hand into bags.”

Asbestos will be almost entirely removed across campus by the time this project is done.

“A couple maintenance buildings will still have a little, but nothing major, and even those will go eventually,” Hocquard said.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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