As a concerned citizen for public and environmental safety and health, it should be mentioned that a large potential asbestos release had occurred at the high school about three or more years ago in one of the older science rooms during unauthorized abatement and illegal disposal methods. Why after all of this time should this be a concern? Because unlike most chemicals, asbestos does not lose potency with time and does not necessarily cause harm chronically like second-hand smoke, but acutely like a bullet. This likely did not occur while school was in session, but these illegal actions of abating this regulated material by untrained school personnel then inappropriately disposing of this hazardous material, should make people ask, “how did this happen”, and “what has been done?”
Well, to help keep people informed and protect human health and the environment, at least once each school year, the local education agency is required to notify in writing parent, teacher, and employee organizations of the availability of asbestos management plans and shall include in the asbestos management plan a description of the steps taken to notify such organizations, and a dated copy of the notification. Along with this, at least once every 3 years after a management plan is in effect, each local education agency shall conduct a reinspection of all known or assumed asbestos containing building materials in each school building and present these this to the public. (commonly through the paper) However, this is a public document, and I encourage anyone concerned with this to contact Jim Stejskal, Facilities and Grounds Supervisor, 715.377.3708, also a copy can be requested from the administration.
This incident of unauthorized gross asbestos removal from a classroom, where asbestos containing cementitious materials were being scraped from walls and components, was told to a staff member by the head of maintenance for that building, but only this past June. The maintenance personnel also claimed he figured a teacher had done the abatement, but failed to report this to anyone during this time.
Now I ask, why would the head of maintenance for such a large high school, who also would have been at least been required to have had asbestos awareness training and was keenly aware that this work had occurred without a work order and was completely unauthorized, not report this to anyone and keep this a secret for these years? Also, since this room, as identified by this maintenance personnel, is on the asbestos management plan, why wasn’t this discovered during the three year reinspection? Where everything is supposed to be reassessed, no matter its potential harm or even if it was just assumed to contained asbestos. This was a room, where giant components that cover the walls were missing and assumed to contain asbestos and this didn’t get discovered during the reinspection?
Fortunately, a teacher staff member who was also a trained asbestos inspector informed the district about this, this past August. After five days and administration being warned multiple times about the potential seriousness of this event, for they did not know what was left behind on walls, in corners, in areas where air circulates, where the asbestos waste ended up and how it got there, the room was closed to staff for some sort of testing.
The even more odd thing about this is that the same type of asbestos material was being partially abated four rooms down at that time, and that asbestos material was assessed by the same staff member/ former inspector and an inspector from a consulting firm to be in good condition and not to be a potential health threat. Just as noted in the letter sent to staff and the School Board. But based on some school employee’s suggestion, they spent all that money abating only some of the material, the rest is in the same condition still in the room. To avoid further and future conflict, this staff member has since resigned. You would think the asbestos materials that have been clearly removed without any authorization would get a bit more concern instead of allowing some non-licensed district employee to willy-nilly spend so much money on abatement procedures of asbestos containing building material ( ACBM) that was deemed in good condition and not a likely potential health risk and was going to be covered up soon anyways like the rest of it that was left in the room. Normally a district would choose a method which is the least burdensome method. But nothing actually prohibits removal of ACBM from a school building at any time, should removal be the preferred response action of the local education agency. It’s just interesting to know this money is readily available for these not-really-necessary actions but none is available to air condition these last eight rooms, like the rest of the school and provide a better learning environment during these hot end-of-summer days and then hot spring days in May and June.
information was reported to the Board of Education on Tuesday, August 13th:
At some point following the end of the school year there was an unauthorized removal of a classroom chalkboard. At a later date the removed chalkboard was discovered in the classroom with adhesive/mastic containing non-friable asbestos fibers. Non-friable means the asbestos fibers have been bound or locked into the adhesive. Asbestos containing adhesives present a low risk of release unless they are sanded, sawed, pulverized or some other means that would turn the adhesive into dust. The removal of the chalkboard did not create this kind of hazardous dust.
Once district administrators were made aware of the situation, the classroom where the chalkboard was located was sealed as well as the hallway leading to the classroom. Certified asbestos abatement contractors were brought in to remove and dispose of the asbestos containing materials. In consultation with an asbestos expert, the district has been assured that this was a minor incident with a very low likelihood of adverse health effects, even for those who may have entered the classroom. Additionally, the air was tested in the classroom and the hallway outside of the classroom to ensure safety. All air samples resulted in values well below the EPA clearance criteria for asbestos.
The District takes the safety and well-being of staff and students very seriously. While this was minor in regard to asbestos exposure it has been treated very seriously by administration. This situation is a good reminder that staff are to use caution and should use the Work Order process when wanting to remove any permanent fixtures in a classroom/office.
Questions may be directed to Tim Erickson, Financial Services Director at ext. 8031.
Community Services Coordinator
Hudson School District