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Asbestos removed from Houston Hall

Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013

Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 02:09

Workers contracted by the university abated asbestos in Houston Hall this summer during a routine renovation project.

Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction until 1973, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to regulate its use due to its ability to cause lung and other organic diseases.

Director of Facilities Services Bob Burns explained that abatement, or removal, of asbestos in buildings during renovation projects happens frequently and follows standard procedure.

“There [were] asbestos found, but that isn’t uncommon,” he said. “For many buildings built prior to the 1980s, asbestos was used and has many different applications. Unless it is airborne, which is called ‘friable’ [asbestos], it isn’t an issue.”

According to Burns, when renovation projects occur, the possibility arises that asbestos will be disturbed.

“Our policy is, if there is asbestos in a space and we have to pull up the carpeting or any minor demolition, then we would abate the asbestos,” Burns said. “You don’t have to deal with asbestos just because it is under the floor. You have to deal with asbestos if you pull up the floor, and we always do that when we renovate any of our buildings.”

The project was completed over the summer when no students were residing in the hall, he added.

“We do most of our renovations when students and faculty are gone,” he said. Residents of Houston Hall were contacted last year informing them that the renovations and removal would occur following their departure from the dorm, according to a Resident Assistant in Houston Hall who wished to remain anonymous.

“All we saw was preparation,” he said. “I don’t think there was any danger. The act or removal didn’t take place until everyone was out.”

Burns said that he gives advance notice if a project will be occurring during the academic year.

“When the activity is occurring, we inform all occupants,” Burns said. “If we had to go into an academic building right now for whatever reason — if something came loose — our policy is to give everyone between ten days and two weeks’ notice. But because [the Houston renovations] occurred this summer when no one was living there, we just took care of it.”

The renovations in Houston included updating bathrooms, common spaces and a number of rooms, he said.

According to Burns, the Department of Facilities Services deals with asbestos cases regularly when it conducts renovations.

“In the course of doing business, we know that there is asbestos because of when the buildings were constructed, but when we find it or encounter it, then we have to deal with it,” he said. “You don’t have to go looking for it.”

Burns said that Facilities brings in outside contractors for the abatement process.

“We have to bring a contractor in who is trained to deal with this material and pull it off,” he said. “It has to be contained and treated — you can’t just throw it in a dumpster somewhere.”

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