The State of Wisconsin has issued six citations against the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point for the improper removal of asbestos that was found in the Communications Arts Center during renovations.
As most communication students may well remember, the Communication Arts Center building underwent many renovations starting in 2009 and up through the summer of 2011. During the renovations, the construction company discovered small amounts of asbestos in some tiles of one of the second floor bathrooms.
The contractors, Dirty Ducts Cleaning Environmental and Insulation, discovered the tiles while working on Friday, March 12, 2010, and quickly removed and cleaned the area by the following Monday.
In May of 2010, a CAC faculty member raised some concerns about the procedures used during the removal of the asbestos to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. The state then sent out State Investigator Susen Trail, who issued six corrective orders against the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.
UWSP denies these violations and has filed a hearing petition to have the corrective orders appealed.
"We believe the corrective orders (a.k.a. violations) were not accurate," said the Director of Safety and Loss Control Jeff Karcher. "We are currently working with the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services (Dept. of Commerce) to get these issues resolved."
The investigator claims in her report that the university did not notify nearby employees or place warning signs by the work site as containing asbestos during and after the clean up, that the university failed to properly provide a qualified person to answer questions and concerns from its employees about the asbestos discovery and removal, and that the university did not determine how much asbestos existed before the project was opened to corporate bidding.
"Documents and emails demonstrate a lack of recordkeeping, inaccurate recordkeeping, and a reliance on a third party recordkeeping and inspection without oversight," the report said.
Lastly, according to the report, the university did not have a Competent Person (Licensed Asbestos Supervisor) carry out the proper procedures of asbestos removal to protect the university employees working near the infected work site or provide alternate routes around the area.
Karcher said that the contractor was a licensed asbestos professional and took all the proper steps to protect the employees in the CAC, that they did in fact post signs, and that they were properly equipped to handle questions regarding the asbestos.
Also, according to the petition the university filed, there was no reasonable way the university could have determined the "unknown" amount of asbestos before the project was opened for bidding.
"Each time we do a construction project in a campus building, materiel scheduled for demolition is tested for asbestos," Karcher said. "The asbestos in the location where construction was to take place in the CAC was removed by a state-approved contractor prior to the construction beginning. If other projects are initiated in the CAC, a similar procedure will be followed to ensure there is no release of asbestos-containing materiel into the air."
Asbestos is a known cancer-causing carcinogen and when it is stirred up by construction and released into the air the fibers can get stuck in the lungs, remaining there for a long time and possibly eventually causing mesothelioma or other health issues.
Karcher said that the asbestos has been removed from the CAC and is safe.
The appeal hearing has no date set for resolution yet.