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Crews removing asbestos from schools

June 11, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Crews are working to remove asbestos from two Washington County schools as part of scheduled summer maintenance projects, Washington County Public Schools officials said.

The asbestos removal work began Monday at both Fountaindale Elementary School on Northern Avenue and E. Russell Hicks Middle School on South Potomac Street, said Michael Whiteley, project manager for Washington County Public Schools.

At Fountaindale, the asbestos removal is preparation for a project to replace all of the exterior doors and windows, Whiteley said. The glazing compound and caulking on the old windows contain tiny amounts of asbestos, he said.

At E. Russell Hicks, the removal is part of a project to replace glass, doors and heaters in two corridors that connect the front section of the school to the back section, Whiteley said. There, the asbestos is part of a fireproofing insulation that was sprayed on the roof deck above the ceiling tiles, he said.

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In both cases, the asbestos has been present since the schools were built and did not pose a hazard during normal use, said Tony Suranno, environmental safety specialist for Washington County Public Schools.

Fountaindale was built in 1949 and E. Russell Hicks was built in 1967.

The asbestos abatement only became necessary because the maintenance projects would disturb the asbestos-containing materials, Suranno said.

Washington County Public Schools has an asbestos management plan that identifies the location of all asbestos in county schools, school system spokesman Richard Wright said. The public can obtain copies of the plan by contacting the facilities management office, he said.

Suranno said the work was being done by licensed crews in compliance with all federal and state laws. As part of that process, air samples are tested periodically and at the end of the project to ensure the air is clean, he said.

The asbestos removal at both sites was expected to take about three weeks, Whiteley said.

At Fountaindale, the asbestos removal work cost $24,360, and at E. Russell Hicks, it was estimated to cost about $21,000, Whiteley said.

At E. Russell Hicks, a mandatory notice of the asbestos project was posted outside of the school. The notice stated it had been posted June 4 and the project was scheduled to begin June 8 and end June 26. Inside, a plastic entryway had been set up around the door to the corridor and more signs warned of the hazards beyond it.

At Fountaindale, caution tape wound around playground equipment on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the school and workers, some wearing plastic coveralls, could be seen removing window panels and air vents from the building Thursday morning.

Whiteley said posted notices and containment areas were not necessary at the Fountaindale project because the asbestos content there was so small, and it was not in a friable, or easily crumbled, form.

However, Fountaindale's principal did send a letter home with students participating in a summer program at the school, as a courtesy, to inform them of the work, Whiteley said. No letters were sent at E. Russell Hicks because it is not used for summer programs, he said.

The last day of school in Washington County was June 3.

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