Snygg Hall demolition still on track

A high amount of the silicate material asbestos was discovered behind the walls in parts of Snygg Hall and has caused a minor delay in its demolition.

A few years ago, consultants spent a significant amount of time surveying Snygg Hall for building materials containing asbestos, according to Eric Foertch, director of Environmental Health and Safety at Oswego State.

“The readily-accessible areas are easy to test, but inspecting areas behind walls can be challenging,” Foertch said. “Although they followed state regulations for inspections, it is not practical to sample behind every wall. Decisions are made based on original building designs and field observations.”

Acting Associate Vice President for Facilities Services Mitch Fields said that there are multiple kinds of asbestos in the building.

“There is friable, which means it is loose and can become airborne and then there is non-friable, which is like in some of the building material, like say the mastic, which they put the floor tiles down with, or some of the old nine-by-nine floor tiles; they were constructed with asbestos in them,” Fields said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers were heavily used in parts of building construction because of its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity.

Fields said workers expected finding asbestos on the inside of Snygg Hall. However, when they started taking the outside bricks off, there was a waterproofing membrane that contained asbestos. Though it is impregnated, Fields said it was not very dangerous and probably is not in the majority of the building.

Fields said that asbestos is probably also in Snygg Hall’s pipe insulation and if disturbed, can become airborne, which is when it becomes a real threat to human health and safety.

“After being exposed with a long gestation period, the fibers themselves have little hooks on them and you can never really get them out of your lungs, and that would cause asbestosis,” Fields said.

Asbestos is not in any building on campus that was built after 1975, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned installation of asbestos pipe insulation and block insulation on facility components.

Removing asbestos from buildings is a complex and timely process. The daily building perimeter air-sampling results since the removal started in November have been negative for asbestos.

“Asbestos abatement is taken very seriously on campus,” Foertch said. “Unfortunately, finding more asbestos behind the brick has added time to the demolition, but it is imperative we perform this job safely and in compliance with all New York state regulations. In the end, it will be worth it.”

Every time the campus does a building renovation, the facilities department has to subscribe to the State of New York Industrial Code Rule 56, which states that “a survey or inspection is required prior to any building or structure demolition, remodeling, renovation, or repair if construction of the building commenced prior to 1974.” Fields said that this regulation is a very perspective methodology on how asbestos needs to be removed in a safe manner.

“Basically, what they do is create an envelope with sheets all over and they tape it up tight and they put a big fan in there, which makes the room under negative pressure,” Fields said. “Then they will treat the asbestos so that it will not become airborne and then they will suck it up and dispose of it properly. It’s pretty heavily regulated by the department of labor. Everyone has the Tyvek suits on with the breathers and you have to be licensed and certified.”

While this process has held up the demolition of Snygg Hall, the construction of the parking lot is still expected to be completed on time.

“The timeline for this work was always projected to extend into the summer of 2014 and I don’t believe anyone expected that new parking would be available until the fall of 2014,” said Casey Raymond, chair of the Oswego State Science Planning Committee, who played a big role in moving departments out of Snygg and into the new Shineman Science Center.

Fields also said the reconstruction process of the parking lot will take approximately 8-12 weeks and Snygg Hall should be down no later than mid-June.

This spring, the renovation of Tyler Hall will get underway and construction workers will face the same challenge with removing asbestos from the building, which will be the first task to ensure safety of the following renovation crew.

“We work really, really hard on removing asbestos, and actually it is a university policy that any time we do construction, we remove it entirely,” Fields said. “So eventually, we will get to the point where we don’t have any.”

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