By Wes Kerrick–
U of L’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety goes to great lengths to properly manage asbestos on campus, Environmental Operations Manager Dennis Sullivan said. Recent work on Gottschalk Hall has raised concerns about whether the presence of asbestos in campus buildings poses a health risk.
Gottschalk’s roof is being replaced due to hail damage, said Larry Detherage, associate vice president for facilities. Before work began, inspectors determined asbestos was present in paint and caulking on the roof. Sullivan said the contractor did not grind the tin roofing or caulking but simply deposited the removed pieces in a dumpster.
Asbestos is common in roof coatings, pipes, floor tiles, shingles and other building components. It becomes a health hazard when airborne, says the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
As stated on its website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that asbestos-containing sites be inspected throughout work projects. Sullivan said U of L’s asbestos abatement specialist, Merlinna Dunn, paid frequent surprise visits to Gottschalk to pull samples and send them to an outside lab for testing. Sullivan said Dunn takes it seriously. “We can’t send her home,” he said. “She’s like the Energizer Bunny. She’s everywhere, and asbestos and lead and silica are her life.”
When asbestos is found in repair sites, U of L hires only contractors who are certified for asbestos-related work, Sullivan said. Roofing Services and Solutions of Jeffersonville, Ind., did the work on Gottschalk. An official document released by the company shows it holds a current asbestos abatement certification from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection. The company also released documentation of its permit from the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District for the Gottschalk project. The permit specifies that waste will be transported by L & N Disposal to Waste Management of Kentucky on Grade Lane.
“The cost of testing and handling asbestos is a significant burden on the university,” Sullivan said. “The university—and I’ve been here 20 years, Larry’s been here 21 years—has always made it a point that we follow every regulation.”
Detherage said U of L’s facilities staff are all trained in asbestos management. Custodians, for instance, are trained to report loose floor tile, he said.
“We don’t allow people to come in and screw around with buildings,” Sullivan said. “Physical plant checks those things, and we’ll catch people doing things they shouldn’t be doing to buildings because they should be done the right way.”
Asbestos is a mineral fiber valued for its strength and heat resistance. Prolonged exposure to airborne fibers causes lung scarring, or asbestosis, and lung cancers, such as mesothelioma.
Photo by Andrew Nathan/The Louisville Cardinal