Construction mishap reveals asbestos at SCC
Source: http://www.thesnaponline.com, January 19, 2017
By: Ritchie Starnes
The discovery of asbestos inside SCC’s signature building has led to its closure until May.
A construction mishap during the summer led to the discovery of asbestos in a glue compound used beneath the tile floor in the Patterson building on the campus of Stanly Community College. Further inspection also found asbestos in a compound inside the joints of the structure’s walls.
Consequently, offices and services located in Patterson were relocated to other parts of the campus in the interest of safety. Predominately an administrative building, most of the relocation pertained to faculty and staff. Patterson, constructed in the ‘70s, is also home to the college’s business office.
“Students come first, then faculty and staff,” SCC President John Enamait said. “It was not a convenient time for faculty and staff to move out of that building at the end of the semester. It was a burden.”
Enamait applauded his faculty and staff since they were forced to absorb the brunt of relocation, much that did not occur until late into the semester after more asbestos was found.
Other than a few nooks in the campus’ oldest building, the second semester of the school year at SCC has been without the use of the Patterson building, or the main focal point of the campus that offers occupants a scenic view from atop a hill on the campus. It’s also the most visible structure, which is the first building that greets visitors as they ascend College Drive.
Enamait had been hired as SCC’s newest president, but had not arrived on campus to start, when he received a telephone call from administration that a contractor working in Patterson inadvertently caused a leak on the second level before leaving on a Friday afternoon (July 29). The water ran throughout the building over the weekend, flooding the building.
“The bottom floor sustained significant damage because of the leak,” Enamait said.
Once workers began to take up the damaged floor tile, asbestos was detected. That discovery led to further investigation with more asbestos found inside the walls.
“That pretty much stopped everything because safety is paramount,” Enamait said, referring to the ongoing construction and campus-related activities inside Patterson.
“It took us a little while with the investigation,” he added.
Ironically, what began as the installation of new flooring and set to conclude July 29 set in motion a crisis with no immediate timetable.
In addition to ridding Patterson of asbestos, officials decided to use the disruption as an opportunity for a face-lift that will ultimately make the building more efficient and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Insurance is expected to cover the cost of the remediation of the building.
“It’s given us an opportunity to do some things that we ordinarily would not have been able to do,” Enamait said.
As long as asbestos remains undisturbed and encapsulated, such as beneath tile or inside walls, it is not harmful. Once asbestos is exposed and disturbed particles risk becoming airborne, Enamait said.
David Ezzell, environmental supervisor for Stanly County, concurred with the assessment.
“Everything I have read and heard in various training is that asbestos is not hazardous as long as the material containing asbestos (floor tiles, insulation, exterior siding, etc.) are intact and remain undisturbed,” Ezzell said. “Fibers are released and become airborne during construction, renovation and demolition activities and that is when they become a hazard.”
Stanly’s building codes are strict in terms of the presence of asbestos.
“Our codes require before the construction process you have to have abatement,” said David Harrington, building codes enforcement director.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral previously lauded for its versatility, recognized for its heat resistance, tensile strength and insulating properties, and used for everything from fire-proof vests to home and commercial construction. It was woven into fabric and mixed with cement.
Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma cancer and is banned in more than 50 countries (not the U.S.), and its use has been dramatically restricted in others.
More than 75 different types of jobs in America have been known to expose workers to asbestos. Occupations in the construction industry have been hit the hardest, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.
While the majority of asbestos-related illnesses each year can be traced to occupational exposure, according to the World Health Organization — there are others at risk, too.
Many exposures are second-hand exposures, families of workers who inadvertently bring the deadly fibers home with them, leaving those around them vulnerable, too.
Homes and apartments built before 1980 often are filled with asbestos, needing only normal wear and tear with age to dislodge the fibers and send them airborne. Asbestos can be found in floor tiles, roofs, furnaces, plumbing, appliances, fireplaces and window caulking.