Ongoing construction efforts at John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix, New York, have uncovered asbestos insulation around the water pipes as well as in some of the floor and ceiling tiles. Scott Bulriss, a contractor with the company who is working on the building, stated that asbestos is commonly found in many structures built from the early 1900s up until 1990. The main building for Birdlebough High was constructed during the 1950s. Mr. Bulriss also mentioned that some asbestos was found at nearby Dillon Middle School, but will be removed from the buildings before classes resume for the fall semester.
Mr. Bulriss explained that construction firms and contractors take all the necessary precautions to remove asbestos before the potentially hazardous material could be exposed to schoolchildren. Although he stressed that short-term exposure is not necessarily harmful, he also said that, when workers run across a substance that could be asbestos, work on any project stops for several days or weeks while the material is sent away for testing.
Chuck Morse, who works with Mr. Bulriss at Campus CMG, stated that, in the event that workers do encounter such a substance, the company also tests the indoor air quality for potential contamination. Workers will also often construct an airtight seal around the area to insure that the possible contamination does not spread to other parts of the structure. From there, the company will call another firm that specializes in asbestos abatement and remediation to handle the safe removal of the substance from the building.
Mr. Morse said that the asbestos abatement process Birdlebough High had halted the other required construction work on the school for nearly two weeks. He stated that the abatement workers made sure that all of the asbestos had been removed from the building and that none of the harmful fibers had been released into the school's air circulation and ventilation systems and assured students, faculty and workers that the school was now safe.
The asbestos abatement was part of a $41 million project that included putting in new seats at the high school's auditorium, upgrading the school's media center and adding new school security devices. The project also covered renovating and adding a new two-story structure to Dillon Middle School as well as updating computer networks and fixing the heating and wiring systems at nearby Maroun Elementary. While the asbestos removal was a major project at Birdlebough High and some asbestos was found at Dillon Middle School, no reports of asbestos contamination were released in relation to Maroun Elementary.
One parent still expressed his concern over the general safety of the school environment during the construction. Dave Rodman, who has a daughter attending Birdlebough High, was worried about the amount of dust, dirt and other airborne contaminants left over from the construction efforts. Phoenix Schools Superintendent Rita Racette released a statement reiterating the fact that most portions of the school were ready for classes and that work on all the facilities in the district was progressing on schedule. She also stated that areas of the campus that are still undergoing renovation will be sealed off and that the school has relocated those functions, such as the media center, to areas that are still accessible to all students.