Kingston Schools Undergo Renovations, Asbestos Removal
Construction workers renovating the former Sophie Finn Elementary School have run into “unanticipated asbestos” issues. Work on the future site of a satellite campus for Ulster County Community College will require additional money in order to complete the project.
According to an article in Daily Freeman News, officials are asking for $83,720 in bonds to safely complete the asbestos removal and to design a “green infrastructure” for the building. The building closed at the end of the 2013 school year.
The county borrowed $366,085 to purchase the school and the surrounding acreage. The new Kingston Center will replace the Ulster County Business Resource Center making it convenient for Kingston High students to take college level classes. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
High School Also Undergoing Renovations
Kingston High School, which is in front of the site, is embarking on a $137.5 million renovation. The school that is nearly 100-years-old will soon be undergoing major work to replace the crumbling infrastructure. Kingston school district Superintendent Paul Padalino reports that electrical systems and heating system are obsolete, and they are faced with brownouts and breakdowns of the boilers.
On the Kingston High School Project website, the project is described as follows:
“The Kingston High School Second Century Capital Plan is designed as a comprehensive and historic re-imagining of the Kingston High School campus. The project is intended to create a healthy and safe 21st century learning environment for students and to revitalize Midtown Kingston by creating an educational corridor, flanked by the Carnegie Learning Center to the left and SUNY Ulster to the right, in the heart of the city.”
The website also has a page dedicated to addressing asbestos concerns. The management and handling of asbestos is highly regulated. According to the site, the New York State Department of Labor requires the training of workers who handle asbestos, specifies work practices during asbestos abatement projects, and requires licensing of asbestos abatement contractors.
Managing Asbestos in Schools
Asbestos may be found in houses, schools and other structures built prior to the mid-1970s. Asbestos-containing products were used in construction materials including roofing materials, ceiling tiles and insulation. Under requirements set forth by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) these asbestos-containing materials in schools must be managed in an undamaged and non-friable condition.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that asbestos-containing materials, with few exceptions, are not currently banned in the United States and are still “managed-in-place” in schools.
Asbestos is a carcinogen and even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Approximately 3,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with the cancer.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma , let the New York top rated asbestos lawyers at Belluck & Fox, LLP work for you and your family. We also have locations at Albany, Rochester and Woodstock that you can visit today.
New York School District is Proactive in Identifying and Mitigating Asbestos Issues in Schools
After several incidents of unsafe levels of asbestos in Binghamton-area schools caused administrators to move students to other classrooms, the Binghamton City School District is being proactive in preventing future incidents. The same relocation initiative is being done with other areas exposed to asbestos such as offices.
In an effort to curtail costs on asbestos remediation and to identify any potential issues before they become hazardous, the school district acted on a special request from the school board to step up inspections in the schools, according to an article in PressConnects.com.
During the summer, Calvin Coolidge Elementary School was found to have “unacceptable levels [of asbestos] in the entire building, except the gymnasium and the cafeteria,” leading to cleanup and closure of the school until December. The District spent nearly $5 million for remediation at Coolidge.
The New York Department of Health reports that through the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), local education agencies are required to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. All public school districts, non-profit private schools, charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions are included in the regulations. A visual inspection is performed every six months, but every three years a more thorough inspection is required.
However, due to the issues at Calvin Coolidge and the asbestos-containing debris found in a window track at Theodore Roosevelt, the school district spent $80,000 for an off-cycle inspection. The licensed asbestos inspectors identified small areas in five schools. According to PressConnects, “the issues were in tunnels or other areas which were not accessible to students or staff.” The affected areas have been sealed off and security measures were taken to keep the areas inaccessible to unauthorized users.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and “the risk of school children being exposed to even low levels of asbestos is a concern.” As a result, AHERA was passed in 1986 by Congress to protect school children and school employees from exposure to asbestos in school buildings. In the pamphlet “The ABC’s of Asbestos in School,” which explains AHERA to parents and teachers, the EPA notes that inspecting the condition of asbestos materials in schools is extremely important so that changes in the material’s condition, such as damage or deterioration, can be detected and corrected before the condition worsens.
Parents can contact their local school district to view the district’s school asbestos management plan.
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New York University Named Official Asbestos Testing Site
A September article highlighted the work the New York public school systems are doing to ensure asbestos is cleared from the schools. However, regardless of the structure, anytime renovation, construction and demolition work is conducted, it is important that appropriate precautions are taken to avoid exposure to asbestos. Now, New York contractors have another place to turn for testing for contaminants at work sites: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
The State University of New York announced on Sept. 19 that its Syracuse Asbestos Laboratory Testing Service (SALTS) received certification from the New York State Department of Health as an official testing lab for airborne fibers. According to the press release, SALTS staff will examine “filtered samples from air monitors at construction sites, schools or other structures for the kind of microscopic fibers that could indicate the presence of asbestos or other contaminants that would require special handling or remediation at the site.”
Asbestos is a building material that was widely used through the 1970s in hundreds of building products, including roofing materials, ceiling tiles and insulation. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of asbestos due to the health risks associated with exposure to the mineral. However, almost every part of older buildings could potentially have asbestos-containing materials, requiring specially trained workers on-site to manage the hazardous materials. Asbestos exposure can cause serious health issues and has been directly linked to mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, asbestos-containing material is considered hazardous if it contains greater than 1% asbestos and is friable or may become friable during disposal. When asbestos materials become friable, meaning it can easily be crumbled, the fibers can become airborne leading to health risks. Anytime the structure of a building is compromised, such as when walls are torn down, the roof is replaced, or even a hole is drilled, dust is likely to escape. The dust may be toxic because of the presence of asbestos or other environmental hazards. That is where the SALTS team comes into play.
Most often, asbestos fibers are so small that they are not visible, but they can be detected via air quality tests. Air samples can be sent to the lab by companies planning to begin construction at a site, or by sites that have been shut down or had to halt renovation due to suspected toxins placing residents or workers at risk. SALTS not only benefits companies in their quick turnaround of the testing results, but the University is able to make money from their tests, and train and certify students at the same time.
Asbestos is designated as a human carcinogen and is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma is diagnosed in close to 3,000 Americans each year. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for between 15 and 60 years after initial exposure to asbestos. However, once symptoms become apparent, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications. Currently, there is no known cure for the disease.
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New York Schools Continue to Address Asbestos Issues
Earlier this month we reported about the “unacceptable” levels of asbestos found and tested at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Binghamton. The asbestos issue resulted in officials moving a summer program to another school in the district. Now, contractors in Brasher Falls are dealing with asbestos abatement in the St. Lawrence Elementary school basement.
According to an article in the Watertown Daily Times, as part of the St. Lawrence Central School’s capital project, in addition to lead and asbestos abatement at the elementary school, contractors have removed ceiling tiles throughout the middle school and high school hallways and classrooms, and they are converting from heating oil to natural gas as well as from steam to hot water throughout the school district. The steam line and heating units date back to the 1950s, according to the article.
Asbestos is a building material that was widely used through the 1970s in hundreds of building products, including roofing materials, ceiling tiles and insulation. Potentially every area of an older school could have asbestos hiding within it. When asbestos becomes airborne and is inhaled, it can cause serious illness and has been directly linked to mesothelioma, a rare form of incurable cancer.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), a provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires local education agencies to “inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.” As was noted by the Binghamton City school district article, school officials are aware of the schools with asbestos-containing products and typically conduct inspections each year.
In April 2011, the New York State Department of Health issued a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding asbestos analysis to “help clarify and interpret existing New York State guidance and regulations.” Following is a partial list of materials that may be found in schools and older buildings, identified within the FAQs that should be analyzed for asbestos prior to beginning work:
- Ceiling Tiles with or without Cellulose
- Resilient Floor Tiles
- Vinyl Asbestos Tile
- Paint Chips
- Wall and Ceiling Plaster
- Asbestos Pipe Packing
- Boiler Insulation
- Furnace Gaskets
Construction and remodeling efforts in schools must be handled by certified asbestos abatement contractors that follow federal, New York State and local safety guidelines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that personnel working on asbestos activities in schools must be trained and accredited in accordance with the Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan which defines a specific training curriculum for asbestos contractors. NY state and local agencies may have more stringent standards than those required by the Federal government and must also be followed.
If you think you are one of the victims, seek help from our New York highly qualified asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP today.