Demolition dust at high school may have contained asbestos |

Demolition dust at high school may have contained asbestos

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Park City High School students and teachers may have been exposed to asbestos fibers from breaking floor tile during the demolition of the old science department in May, according to Steve Oliver, the district support services director.

Oliver said a former district employee mistakenly told Hughes Construction that the tile had been removed by a Utah-licensed asbestos abatement team, when in fact; it may have still been present when the building was torn down. Oliver said the employee was authorized to advise Hughes Construction on the matter.

May 8, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, responded to four complaints made by teachers, separate concerns connected with the Phase 1 remodel. One of those complaints dealt with dust from the demolition entering several classrooms.

One teacher suffered respiratory difficulties speculated to have been caused by the dust.

As OSHA investigated the complaints, they found that the science building was likely demolished with the asbestos-containing floor tiles still present, Oliver said.

He said that he met with OSHA last week, who, in a preliminary report said the district knocked down a building containing asbestos floor tile, which should have previously been removed using asbestos abatement procedures. "They will likely cite us for that," Oliver said.

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Louis Silva, the division director and administrator of OSHA in Salt Lake, said a report will be issued within 30 days. If a citation is to be issued, there will be an additional 30 days before results are released to the public.

Oliver said he and others have looked for a receipt or proof that the asbestos tile had been abated, but "we can’t produce proof it was abated."

He said "Occupied rooms were sealed off with visqueen. The area was watered down during demolition. It’s very unlikely people were exposed to the fibers," although he added, "Unfortunately some teachers had their classroom windows open."

Lab reports in 1998 and 2000 indicated the floor tiles contained three percent asbestos, Oliver said.

Dave Roskelley, with R&R Environmental Inc., the lab that tested the tiles, said that any floor tiles containing more than one percent asbestos "are considered asbestos containing."

Before its health hazards were documented, asbestos was commonly used in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and pipe insulation. If a material containing 1 percent or more asbestos is broken or crumbled, it is "rendered friable," and asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can increase the risk of developing certain lung diseases including lung cancer, mesotheloma and asbestosis, according to The Utah Department of Health Office of Epidemiology, but they add that harmful effects generally result from long exposure to asbestos over a long period of time.

Roskelley said that Chrysotile, the harmful material in the tiles, could be a health hazard if rendered friable, but said, "Generally you don’t have to remove floor tile during demolition. Even if it were present, it is considered a gray area. Generally that would not be a citable offense."

The old cafeteria was torn down last week, which also contained asbestos in the floor tiles, but asbestos abatement was done prior to demolition, Oliver said.

Oliver said the final OSHA report may be completed in two to three weeks. I don’t think we will be fined. It will likely be a citation. But that doesn’t diminish it. I wish it had never happened."