Worrisome Asbestos Discovery at Wapato School

Asbestos, even in small amounts, can cause a wide variety of diseases including multiple forms of cancer and even mesothelioma.  That’s why certain parties are so concerned about a demolition/renovation project at a Wapato High School in Washington.

A local news station recently reported that the school currently undergoing renovation was discovered to contain asbestos materials.  The revelation will effectively slow the project down and extend it well into the school year, something school board officials had hoped to avoid.  Now, with students and demolition debris on-site together, some are worried that the community’s children are being put at too high a risk.

The project at Wapato High School was scheduled to wrap up long before students came back to class.  That would have given crews plenty of time to clean up debris and put the finishing touches on the new construction.  However, asbestos remediation can be a time consuming process.  Because asbestos is so dangerous, federal regulations dictate exactly how it must be handled.  Licensed contractors must be called in to remove asbestos in any public or commercial building.  These materials must be delicately handled, packaged securely, and delivered to approved disposal facilities in order to mitigate any danger from the toxic minerals within.

Dan Murray, Wapato Schools Assistant Superintendent, said that student and faculty safety was top priority and he and others were working hard to ensure that “the student safety issues, staff safety issues, are all up to city codes,” and that “…we’re really struggling …” with traffic flow in order to keep kids and faculty away from potentially hazardous work site conditions.

Scrupulous contractors can easily keep living and work areas separated from construction zones containing asbestos.  Double airlock systems, secure transportation containers, ventilation devices and sealed vacuums can all be used – depending on the amount and type of asbestos materials – in order to keep students safe.  You can bet that officials will be watching this remediation project closely to ensure that nothing slips past their scrutiny.

The Wapato case illustrates the hidden danger that exists in schools today all across the country.  These older buildings were constructed when asbestos was a common additive to hundreds of individual construction materials.  Unfortunately, school districts simply don’t have the money or the resources to remove potentially hazardous materials.  They are often forced to manage asbestos in-place and do what they can to keep it from contaminating the school’s air supply.

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