Renovation of Hogan’s office leads to asbestos exposure
Published: Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 01:03
Federal regulations regarding the disposal and release of asbestos-contaminated objects were violated by UConn officials during the renovation of President Micael Hogan's office last October, resulting in alleged asbestos exposures.
"People who walked near Gulley Hall while this work was going on should not be concerned about exposure," said Michael Kirk, a spokesman for UConn.
Carpenters said that debris contaminated with asbestos was dropped out of a second-story window into the Dumpster below, according to a memo from UConn officials detailing the nature and practices of the renovation.
There were no efforts to contain the dust while the objects were in transit to the Dumpster, according to the memo. Without a chute between the window and the Dumpster or some sort barrier surrounding the container, people working near Gulley Hall could have been exposed to asbestos, according to interviews of two carpenters in the memo.
"Workers who were part of the project could receive medical screenings if they chose to," said Kirk.
The carpentry supervisor said that the full Dumpsters were taken to a facility where their contents were probably mixed with other debris, according to the memo.
The issue stemmed from a misunderstanding about what material had been tested for asbestos. The asbestos was found after the renovation of the contaminated area had begun. The asbestos was in the mastic, a cement adhesive and filler under the plywood floor of the office.
The original plan was not to pull up the entire floor, so materials underneath
the floor were not tested prior to the start of the renovation, according to the memo.
In an interview with a general-trades worker by UConn officials, the worker said that most involved in the renovations had set aside their concerns. According to the memo, the worker said that somebody had informed him "that it would take too long to get it [the material under the floorboard] sampled." He said he was told that everything came back negative.
"A communication problem occurred which was exacerbated by the rushed nature of the work. Employees reported that they did not feel that their concerns were adequately addressed," according to the memo.
No asbestos was found after inspections of the office that occurred last summer. The memo addresses these inspections as "limited."
The mastic under the floorboards was not tested until two carpenters alerted UConn's Department for Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). The carpenters warned the department about their concerns of potential asbestos contamination. Work on the renovation continued until the test for asbestos contamination came back positive.
"The mastic was not covering the floor, there were patches in places. Once the mastic thought to contain asbestos was discovered, licensed asbestos professional firms were retained to test and remove the material," said Kirk.
Besides the improper disposal of the contaminated debris, violations of the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations involving hazardous air pollutants included the lack of inspection of material beneath the plywood floor, the use of power tools on asbestos-containing material which conjured contaminated dust, and the return of contaminated tools to the construction and carpentry storages places.
Regulations placed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were also violated. These violations include "asbestos disturbance occurred with no employee exposure monitoring, resulting in undocumented asbestos exposures" and the inaccessibility of inspection reports to employees.
A general-trades worker said that the room was often filled with dust when they were removing the plywood prior to the inspection, according to the memo. A fan was installed in the office's window to clear the large amounts of dust.
EH&S was notified about potential asbestos contamination on Oct. 1, 2009. The results came back positive for the mastic on Oct. 5 and construction work stopped until the mastic was removed and the area was deemed clear of contamination on Oct. 8.
Various actions recommended by the EH&S were stated in the memo in order to prevent similar future situations.
"A university-wide asbestos inspection has been conducted to identify potential asbestos-containing materials in all buildings on UConn's campuses," said Kirk. "Also, as a result of the university's own investigation, our office of Environmental Health and Safety is working with Facilities personnel to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations regarding asbestos."
Asbestos was found in a poorly insulated pipe in Hawley Armory in September 2009.
The office of the president was last renovated in 1964. Unless proven otherwise, OSHA requires that all floor tiles installed prior to 1981 be presumed to have asbestos.