Facilities finds, removes asbestos infestation in Bigelow sub-basement

By Paul Lee

A contracting team working with Facilities found asbestos in the sub-basement of the Bigelow residential dorm during a construction project that was planned to move an outdoor electrical vault, a transformer, indoors and into the sub-basement. The asbestos was identified during the initial phases of the construction project from August 13-24. The team originally planned to move thegenerator into the sub-basement and end construction before new and returning students arrived on campus. Though some students involved with athletic programs were already on campus, the asbestos infestation was limited to the sub-basement and its surrounding areas, not accessible to the general public. After the contractors identified the asbestos in the dirt located within the crawl space of the subbasement, facilities services worked to clean up the infestation in order to move forward with the project. During the weeks in August, a vacuum machine was used “that vacuumed up the dirt with the asbestos fibers and contained them all,” said Director of Facilities Services Mark Dickinson. The construction project was planned to move the electrical vault that is outside of Bigelow’s foundation and indoors away from the elements of weather and exposure to water, which could affect the vault. The vault, which is close to thirty years old, provides electricity to several campus buildings, including Bigelow, Weyerhaeuser Chapel and the Weyerhaeuser administrative building. The project, which was delayed by the asbestos findings, consisted of several phases. The first phase of the project was to prepare the subbasement space by cleaning out dirt and putting in a concrete floor. “We had to move pipes. Some of those pipes contained installation on them that had asbestos, so when we do that, we have to remove the asbestos,” Dickinson said. The water meter had to be temporarily relocated as well, providing further reason for Facilities to finish the project before students arrived. In order to properly install the water meter, the water was shut off during periods of the day when pre-season student athletes would not be affected. Asbestos is a problem that affects many buildings on campus, especially older buildings in which former construction plans may not have been as careful and conscious of the threats that asbestos can pose. “Any house furnace in this area when it was built was probably covered with asbestos. So every homeowner in this area has had to deal with asbestos,” he said. “People in the past who worked on pipes were not as careful, were cavalier, so there may be asbestos in the dirt.” With regards to asbestos findings at Macalester, Dickinson said that the school has been removing infestations for over 20 years. Asbestos was identified in the Janice Wallace Fine Arts Center, when the Facilities office was located in the basement of the building, prior to its renovation. “Before we moved out of the music building, we had asbestos all throughout our office here, but it was not a danger because it was enclosed. It was enclosed down there and where it was in the dirt, it was way back [and away from the office],” he said. The asbestos found over the summer is no longer a large threat on campus, Dickinson reassured. “We’ve removed most of the asbestos on campus,” he said. “The only places where asbestos still exists in very small quantities is in mechanical spaces in the elbows of [pipes].” Due to changes in industry standards and awareness of the dangers of asbestos, the threats may not be as pervasive. “Nowadays people are more in tune with their health and should be taking good care of themselves, and the heightened awareness is the main thing,” Dickinson said. refresh –>