Intersession Pipe Burst Sparks Asbestos Removal In Leo

A pipe on the third floor of the Leo engineering building burst and flooded offices and classrooms on the ground level on Jan. 12. Leo 236, one of the building’s biggest rooms, will be closed to classes and meetings until at least Feb. 3 as contractors continue to repair the affected areas.

“Right now, the target is to turn the room back on Feb. 3, but the abatement is done,” Andrew Ryan, vice president of facilities, said. He said that all asbestos, which had been found in the floor tiles, had been removed before classes began Jan. 21.

The flood began in the chemistry labs on the third floor, when water pipes in the overhead hoods burst in the cold. The water should have flowed through the drains in the floor of the lab, but because they were clogged the water leaked into the floor below.

The water damage impacted the electrical engineering and Air Force ROTC offices the most. Faculty and staff were displaced for nearly a week before the mess could be fully cleaned up.

“We have a testing room in the back there for ROTC people and Air Force people in general and that was all flooded,” Shelley Leichter, secretary in the Air Force ROTC office, said. “A lot of people had documents that were wet.”

She said that the office had to run dehumidifiers for a week to remove the moisture and smell from the space.

“Some employees had to home because it was very cold. There was no heat here. The smell was terrible,” Leichter said.

“We wasted like one week of work, time, to try and restore the damage,” Dr. Evriclea Voudouri-Maniati, associate professor of computer and electrical engineering, said. Her office in Leo 251 suffered serious damage and she has moved to a new office in the interim.

“I had a hairdryer trying to save some papers, some documents,” she said.

Contractors that MC has a working relationship with were called in to fix the damage as soon as possible. MC hired Environmental Maintenance Contractors, Inc. for the abatement and NICHE Analysis, Inc. to monitor the air.

“The mere presence of asbestos is absolutely not a problem,” Ryan said. “It’s when the asbestos is damaged that it potentially becomes a problem. As soon as this became an issue, we brought the companies in that we needed to legally and safely abate the asbestos.”

“If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air,” according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. These fibers can line the throat and lungs, causing cancer or lung disorders in people with extensive exposure to airborne asbestos.

“Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs,” according to United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.