Asbestos removal in Puterbaugh Hall

After signs of asbestos removal were posted on the doors of Miller and Puterbaugh Hall, students became worried about their own halls.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral, can be a dangerous element if exposed to for a long period of time.

History senior Riley Sherman is a residential advisor at Puterbaugh Hall and says he heard rumors of asbestos being in the walls of the lobby at the beginning of the year but didn’t believe any of them until two weeks ago.

“One of my co-workers was working at the front desk one day,” Sherman said. “She texted me and told me that a bunch of maintenance workers were coming in and out, but she wasn’t sure why. As I came back to the building from class later that day, I saw on the door to the building that they had posted a removed sign that they were removing asbestos on that day. Besides that, we were never really told anything about it.”

The removal happened on March 15, but maintenance only removed asbestos from one resident’s room instead of the whole building. Sherman says the area maintenance worked in was not the area he was told they had asbestos in.

“Admittedly I was not too shocked,” Sherman said. “We have a very old building here, and although it did kind of make me nervous in the sense of who knows where it all is and how much there is, it really didn’t shock me much that we still have asbestos… I’ve heard in past years that they have it in other buildings as well.”

Director of Housing and Residence Life Lisa Ortiz says asbestos is in every building on campus, from residence halls to academic buildings. Ortiz says students shouldn’t worry, as asbestos isn’t dangerous unless someone is doing construction and drilling into the walls.

Coordinator of Housing Facilities Greg Eichenberg says he was a custodian for ten years and had training on asbestos every year. He learned that the material is not harmful until it turns into a dust form.

“It’s in everything,” Eichenberg said. “A lot of places in the ‘60s and ‘70s [used it]. It’s a great insulator and fire protector… There’s no point in taking it out and wasting the money to do that until it’s needed.”

Ortiz and Eichenberg said it is expensive to remove asbestos and to only remove it when an incident occurs. In regards to the incident at Puterbaugh, Eichenburg says a resident found a leak in their room and called for facilities management.

“Facilities looked at it, and in order to fix the leak, they had to take out a ball cap. Before they can take that ball cap out, they had a test for asbestos,” Eichenberg said. “It came back that it was positive for asbestos. They brought in the abatement crew that was over at Miller Hall. They came over, evaded the area that needed to be evaded, and then they were able to fix the pipe.”

The resident temporarily had to leave their room but was able to return a few hours later, as it didn’t take too long to correct the issue. Miller Hall is being prepared to undergo construction to be updated, and the first step in that preparation was to test for asbestos before it turns into dust due to drilling. According to Eichenberg, the process of testing and removing material in the lobby, upper lobby and a few rooms took two weeks to complete.

Ortiz says it is more cost-effective to remove any asbestos from a single room rather than an entire floor or building and that maintenance workers do their due diligence in making sure everyone is safe in campus buildings.

Ortiz and Eichenberg both agree there is no danger to students living in the residence halls, and if students still have questions or concerns about asbestos, they should call housing for more information.