North Texas Daily

SGA senator discovers, fights asbestos in campus buildings

SGA senator discovers, fights asbestos in campus buildings

December 03
03:27 2015

Lisa Dreher & Eline de Bruijn | Staff Writers

@lisa_dreher97 & @debruijneline

Tiffany Miller wants the student body to know how much asbestos line the walls of campus buildings where her peers eat, sleep and study. Because she has been unaware of the hazardous building material for so long, she now intends to alert the students of what’s inside walls across campus.

The language building on the northeast corner of campus is one of the buildings said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

The language building on the northeast corner of campus is one of the buildings said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Universities are not required to notify occupants as long as the asbestos is encapsulated by walls made of layers of paint and plaster. The Environmental Protection Agency has strict regulation standards for the containment of asbestos.

“As long as it’s not disturbed, it’s perfectly safe,” said Charlie Fox, the Risk Management director of environmental management. “It’s probably one of the most controlled areas that we have to deal with.”

Miller, who is a Student Government Association senator representing the College of Arts and Sciences, told the undergraduate government her plans to speak with her college’s dean, UNT Facilities staff and professors to explore whether there are necessary steps SGA and the university need to take.

“If it’s really as big of a problem as it seems to be per what I’m being told by different professors and those who are aware of it, I’m confused as to why it hasn’t been taken care of sooner,” Miller said.

The most populated dorm, Kerr Hall, is a building said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

The most populated dorm, Kerr Hall, is a building said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

In order for someone to be exposed to asbestos, they would have to nail something into the wall, penetrating the containment wall, releasing asbestos. University policy states people “must not nail into the walls or break any floor tile in order to hang pictures or secure furniture; or work in the space above the ceiling tile” to not disturb the material.

“There’s not a particular risk to this policy,” said Greg Gant, managing director of Asbestos Inspectors Inc. of North Texas. “The state health department does not let these schools go unwatched.”

But for Miller, that is not good enough. She said students need to know sooner they are in the same environment as asbestos, regardless of layers of paint and plaster.

“It would have been nice to know a little bit earlier,” Miller said. “Not lot of people knew, and that says something about the dissemination of that information.”

Sage Hall, built in 1961, is a building said to have asbestos in it. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Sage Hall, built in 1961, is a building said to have asbestos in it. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

UNT Facilities associate vice president David Reynolds said the university has no plans to completely eliminate asbestos-containing material.

“In general you don’t need to just eliminate it,” Reynolds said. “If it’s encapsulated, it’s not a hazard as long as it stays encapsulated. Generally across building facilities and construction industry, you don’t see people going in and trying to remove asbestos because they want to remove the asbestos.”

UNT Facilities and Risk Management share a database of about which buildings on campus have been tested.

UNT Risk Management Services has a hazardous material flyer online for those moving between offices that states “most building [sic] constructed before 1985 contain asbestos.” Gant said all buildings in Denton constructed during the 1940s and 1980s contain asbestos.

Because of the mineral’s resistance to high temperatures and corrosion, it was used to insulate walls and strengthen building materials like ceilings, floor tiles and textured paint. During the 1960s to 1970s, the link between mesothelioma and asbestos caught public attention.

Curry Hall, built in 1912, is a building said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Curry Hall, built in 1912, is a building said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

According to the EPA, schools are responsible to properly perform duties including actions to develop management plans, conduct inspections, re-inspections or perform response actions. They must also meet recordkeeping requirements.

A project manager at any location is required to perform sample testing for asbestos in buildings being renovated and demolished. In accordance with Texas State Law, state health inspectors and contractors must be properly licensed and follow the proper reporting, removal and containment procedures. 

Re-inspection by an accredited inspector is required once every three years in each school building used. Samples of any damage to possible asbestos containing material is collected and sent to the National Bureau of Standards.

Reynolds said such an inspector will monitor construction crews when Stovall Hall is demolished.

“I would say asbestos is generally one of those things to be aware of but don’t be afraid of,” Reynolds said. “The way we treat it from maintenance is we want to make sure you’re aware of it; That we’re checking to make sure anything we’re working on doesn’t contain it. And if it does, we want to follow the proper procedures to remove it and make sure we don’t create a hazard by breaking that encapsulation.”

Featured Image: Maple Hall, built in 1964, is one building said to contain asbestos. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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