Asbestos Abatement Continues in Leo

by GABRIELLA DEPINHO and RICHARD GERLING, Asst. News Editor and Contributor

As Manhattan College makes progress on renovations and construction around campus, asbestos found as work is completed poses a snag that must be dealt with.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned asbestos usage in the 1970s but most campus buildings were built before that policy went into effect,  and utilize asbestos for electric insulation as well as building insulation.

Andrew Ryan, VP of Facilities, was not surprised when asbestos was found during renovations and construction.

“You know its a 1950s building or so, so typically what you expect would be things like floor adhesive, floor tiles, pipe insulation for sure, sometimes ceiling tiles, but we didn’t have that issue down there, what else, up on the roof sometimes roofing materials, sometimes the glue and sometimes the flashings that go on the wall … We knew we had asbestos,” said Ryan.

He continued.

“We got it in many buildings but just the mere presence of asbestos is absolutely not a problem. When asbestos becomes a problem is … when it becomes airborne and then the prolonged breathing it in.”

Asbestos is being found and removed in the Leo Engineering Building. On the front doors of Leo facing RLC, signs have been posted notifying students and the public of the presence of asbestos, as well as the fact that MC is permitted to work on asbestos abatement.

“One of the things about asbestos abatement is that you have to post notices all over the place. They’re pretty horrible signs, you know and scares the whole world,” said Ryan, “They’re required and say there’s asbestos abatement in process.”

The school works with fully licensed contractors to make sure all work gets done properly. There are different ways to abate the asbestos but one process involves plasticizing and sealing the room off, putting the room under negative pressure, exhausting the air from the room through a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and having workers go through a ‘decon’ area where they can shower off any left over particles. All the material that needs to be disposed of is double bagged and then brought to a site to be legally disposed of.

The work has not interfered with school functions or with student or faculty life.

“Most of the time that we’re doing it, we do it at night… The only time it will interfere with classes and stuff like that is if we have to close a hallway, which we had to during the summertime but that’s it,” said Ryan.   

While the school has the full information about the abatement process and the safety of the process, the notices were left for students to see and for some, to be concerned about.

Senior civil engineering major Brian J. Murphy was one of a few students who started to feel a little uneasy about the signs.

“I didn’t think much of it, but the more i thought about the more I realized that asbestos is asbestos and it just isn’t good at all,” said Murphy, “I really hope it hasn’t affected any students and that no one’s breathed it in. That would be bad for us; it would be bad for the school.”

Sophomore civil engineering major Andrew Scala also shared some concerns.

“I feel that the school should’ve had informed us through emails or more postings rather than only the signs in the front because most students come in from the back,” said Scala, “ I also wish the school would keep us up to date on the air quality that they are supposed to be monitoring.”

According to Ryan, at no point in the process has the air been unsafe.

While there is no set end date for the completion of the abatement, the school has completed the bulk of the work and plans to continue to remove any asbestos it finds as future construction and renovation projects are undertaken.