Jessica Roy

Construction in Warfield Hall, home to the Office of Student Affairs, will not begin until June 2007 due to the removal of asbestos in the building prior to further renovations.

Jeff Johnson, industrial hygienist and radiation safety officer of Miami’s Environmental Health and Safety department, said that Miami University has known about Warfield Hall’s asbestos for more than 10 years. In 1996 and 1997, all buildings built prior to 1981 were sampled for asbestos, including Warfield Hall.

“Any building built prior to 1981, you have to assume that certain suspect materials are asbestos before you sample them and send them to a lab to have them proved that they are not asbestos,” Johnson said.

According to Mel Shidler, project manager for the renovation of Warfield Hall, asbestos in Warfield Hall was found near pipes, in insulation, and under brittle floor tiles.

And Shidler explained that removing asbestos from a building is a dangerous task and requires proper gear and protection.

“People generally wear suits,” he said. “With the (contaminated) insulation, they use a glove bag so nothing is released into the air. They actually enclose the whole area and put it under negative pressure so nothing is released into the atmosphere.”

According to Dr. Gregory Garnett, medical director of Student Health Services, safety measures are vital because asbestos can cause lung scarring and mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.

“The concerns we have from a health standpoint revolve around the inhalation of asbestos dust,” Garnett said. “Inhaling the dust can result in disability because of the long-term lung damage. Once the asbestos is in the lung, it stays in the lung.”

He added that while asbestos is dangerous, it only presents a risk if it is in the air in the form of dust. If asbestos remains intact, it does not create a health issue. However, asbestos becomes an issue during construction and remodeling when it is torn out and creates dust.

The Environmental Protection Agency echoes Garnett’s view about when to eliminate asbestos from a building. Johnson explained that the EPA does not recommend removing asbestos until the building is going to be either renovated or demolished unless the material becomes significantly damaged.

For this reason, asbestos remains in buildings across campus.

“Hughes Hall was renovated several years ago, and there is an enormous amount of floor tile containing asbestos,” Johnson said. “But, the tile is found to be in good condition, and the scope of the renovation was strictly mechanical.”

As an employee of the physical facilities department, Shidler is both familiar with and not at all concerned with the asbestos contamination in Warfield Hall.

“It’s very normal,” he said. “It happens in every building that we renovate.”

Johnson echoed Shidler’s comments, saying that this process is more or less routine.

“There are very few buildings in which we don’t have to deal with asbestos,” Johnson said. “This is part of the renovation.”

The renovation plan for Warfield is that all of the hall will be gutted and remodeled to better suit the needs of faculty, staff and students. The project includes upgrades for the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance to meet the needs of handicapped students.

The expected date of completion for the renovation is August 2008. However, this date is subject to change depending on when construction begins. After the renovation, the building will continue to house student affairs, currently relocated in Kreger Hall.