By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Water-damaged classrooms at Edison Elementary School remain under containment following a toilet flood the weekend of May 7.
Three of the building’s pre-kindergarten rooms — all soaked from the floor to the wall bases — have been kept closed to students, who were moved to other areas.
But some aren’t satisfied. Following the flood, a Gainesville ISD resident e-mailed the Register with concern of asbestos danger.
“I found that the carpet has now been removed, yet cannot be replaced until school is completely out in June due to the discovery of asbestos being under the tile beneath the carpeting in the school,” the resident wrote by e-mail, wanting to remain anonymous. “The tile was beginning to ‘bubble up’ from the moisture of the carpet; only when it was investigated was it discovered that there is asbestos beneath the tile flooring in these classrooms.
“It seems to me that if the tile is lifting up from the concrete there is a danger of exposure to asbestos to people using the hallway, if not the entire building,” the resident wrote. “I am extremely concerned about the health risks to exposure to asbestos to both the young children, as well as school employees. The air conditioning has been circulating the air throughout the building. It only takes a microscopic fragment of asbestos to cause cancer.”
School officials and asbestos experts insist asbestos health risks aren’t present.
Gainesville ISD Maintenance and Transportation Director Vance Wells said some of the sub-carpet floor tile in the three rooms contains asbestos but hasn’t been disrupted and presents no hazard. During the week of June 7, Corinth asbestos consultant John Drew and his abatement team will oversee removal of the carpet and flooring.
“We’re not doing that until the week after school’s out,” Wells said, adding that Drew’s company has worked with Gainesville ISD in the past.
Drew himself explained Friday the rumor of floor tile “bubbling up” in the classrooms is a misnomer.
“You cannot get asbestos to bubble up,” he said. “When you pull the carpet the tile will break up and when it does that, the carpet will pull the tile with it. This has not happened, but if you were to go in there and rip it all up it doesn’t mean there is an asbestos exposure. It means it’s against the law.”
Drew said the Edison sub-carpet flooring is mildly hazardous on an asbestos content level, but wouldn’t become at all hazardous to the environment unless the tile is rendered “friable,” a regulatory term defined as “crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder.”
Unless any of the tile is actually shredded and turned to dust, Drew said, none of the asbestos can go airborne. He said many tiled floors contain asbestos and are an everyday presence, certainly among school students, but aren’t dangerous provided they aren’t grinded into powder by unprotected workers.
“The problem is, if you take the floor tile up with the carpet it has to be disposed of as a specialized waste,” he said. “We’ll have the whole area covered with plastic sheeting and negative air containment. It’s going to be a full-blown asbsestos containment operation.”
In the e-mail, the district resident wrote the concern wasn’t an overreaction and that for safety’s sake the Edison campus should be environmentally tested.
Drew, who has 25 years of asbestos consultation experience, said the appropriate steps are already in place.
“I can tell you the district is doing it exactly as they should,” he said. “They contacted me and I told them, ‘You can’t take the carpet up, you have to use an abatement team,’ and that’s how they proceeded. So I don’t see any hazards at that school.”