With the fall semester now fully underway, many students have taken notice of the red tape and warning signs that can be seen in and around Clement Hall.
While the warnings are particularly frightening, with phrases such as “May Cause Cancer,” those in charge of overseeing the project say that there is nothing to worry about.
The short answer is that Clement, and every other building on campus that may contain asbestos, is safe. The long answer, while still reassuring, is a bit more complicated.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was often used in construction for its advantageous physical properties. While the use of asbestos in buildings has been occurring for over 100 years, and asbestos mining for a significantly greater time period, the health risks associated with it did not become apparent until around the 1930s.
It is important to note, however, that asbestos itself does not create these health concerns. Rather, inhaling dust particles that contain asbestos can be hazardous and cause serious medical conditions. This is why students are now seeing these warning signs in Clement—as the building is being renovated, asbestos-filled dust particles are being released into the construction area.
These warning signs, however, are simply a precautionary step. According to Susie Lewis, Director of Skyhawk Printing Services, the asbestos was never, and continues not to be, a concern within the building. Lewis is in and out of Clement multiple times a day, and has been doing so since long before renovations in Clement began about a year ago, and the asbestos removal that started in May 2016. Since the very beginning of the renovation phase, which includes asbestos removal, several parties have been involved to ensure the safety of everyone on campus, in the building, and working on construction.
“The asbestos abatement is done under strict environmental guidelines and regulations,” said Tim Nipp, Director of Physical Plant Operations. “The design documents were prepared by an environmental design specialist to include all asbestos items in these sections of the building, i.e. insulation on some piping, some floor tile and ceiling material. The abatement contractor strictly followed the contract documents for the abatement procedures. A third party provided air monitoring to ensure all building occupants were not affected by this abatement.”
Nipp is certain that individuals who work in the building and those who utilize the services in the building are completely safe. While the restricted areas may have asbestos in the air, these areas have been completely and properly sealed off, and the authorized renovation personnel who enter these areas follow the proper safety precautions while working.
The asbestos removal also does not affect the efficiency of the services held in the building, according to Lewis.
“We had to redirect traffic” said Lewis. “We have signage up and make sure everyone knows what entrance to use.”
The asbestos removal phase is nearly complete. The second phase of renovations will begin in the coming months and last approximately 15 to 18 months.