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Asbestos-removal tab could be up to $2 million

March 23, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Although test results showed no airborne asbestos fibers in Thacher Hall, that dormitory and Shaw Hall will remain closed until the fall semester begins, Shepherd College officials said Monday.

The 254 students who live in those two dorms have been moved into other rooms on campus or into hotel rooms, said Sharon Kipetz, vice president of student affairs for the college.

Eighteen testing stations were set up in each of the three-story dorms, both of which were constructed in 1970. At that time, asbestos, now listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen, was used as insulation and as a fire retardant.

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It was sprayed onto the ceilings of the dorms, but is not believed to be present in any other campus buildings, college officials have said.

In Shaw Hall, one fiber was found in two of the testing sites. No fibers were found in the air in Thacher Hall, Kipetz said.

This spring and summer Shepherd officials expect to pay up to $2 million to abate the asbestos, Kipetz said. Boggs Environmental Consultants of Frederick, Md., is handling the project.

Kipetz said school officials are concentrating first on moving students into their new rooms and returning priority items, like textbooks, computers and other academic materials.

Counseling services also will be set up, with counselors set to visit the hotels where some students are staying, she said.

While "hard surface" items, including photographs and books, can be returned after being decontaminated, if and when "soft fiber" items such as clothes can be returned will be up to officials with Boggs, Kipetz said.

Some items were returned Monday to roommates who showed up together with a picture ID, as required. Daily updates on when additional items will be returned will be posted on the school's Web site. Other information will continue to be posted there, Kipetz said.

Faculty members were made aware of the situation and are cooperating with students' needs. Staff members of the nursing department came to the college bookstore to pick up textbooks for students, Kipetz said.

The problem arose early last week, when a staff member noticed a dusty clump of ceiling material had fallen onto a desk in Shaw Hall, officials said.

Students were on spring break at the time.

After initial tests on the dust came back as positive for asbestos, Shepherd officials decided Thursday to close the two dorms. Administration employees called the students Friday and Saturday, making contact with all but 18 to 20, Kipetz said.

On Monday, arrangements were made with PanTran, a public transportation agency, to have buses stop at the hotels where students are staying and take them to campus, Kipetz said.

Students who voluntarily move off campus will be reimbursed a prorated room and board rate. They could receive as much as $571, plus the fee they paid for Internet access. They also will receive a reimbursement check if they decide to cancel or reduce their meal plan, Kipetz has said.

As of late Monday, Kipetz said 98 students had moved into on-campus vacancies, 84 had been moved into hotel rooms, 44 volunteered to move off campus and 28 had yet to check in.

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