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Low Levels of Asbestos Detected at UMB Construction Site

According to a recent screening of the soil at areas on campus that are under construction for the Utility Corridor and Road Relocation (UCRR) project, low levels of asbestos have been found.

In an email that was sent out to only University of Massachusetts Boston staff and faculty on December, 7, Dorothy F. Renaghan, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management, and Zehra Schneider-Graham, Deputy Director of Environmental Health and Safety, explained these findings and how they are being dealt with. The officials assured the recipients of the email that levels are very low.

There is “no indication of increased risk.” However, contractors still decided to stop working at the affected area and continue construction at other sites on campus. Renaghan and Schneider-Graham also pointed out that they are collaborating closely with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the construction manager on site in order to deal with the issue.

The finding of asbestos, according to the officials, is most likely due to the fact that UMass Boston was built on a former landfill and therefore, hazardous materials may still reside under the two foot clean cap, such as the found asbestos.

During the construction process, when ground is removed or relocated, the soil is disturbed and has the potential to bring hazardous materials to daylight. Therefore, the soil is analyzed, and then experts decide what soil remains on campus and what has to be removed in order to ensure safety. According to the Environmental Health and Safety Department, around 20 percent of the excavated dirt is not reusable and has to be appropriately disposed.

In the email, it was stated that the DEP has already been notified and they have already visited the affected site. However, they have said that additional safety measures need to be taken. In the same week the email was sent out, the DEP was also scheduled to meet with the officials.

Asbestos is a major threat when airborne. The University is also measuring and controlling the dust that is produced during the construction process. At UMass Boston’s construction site, the Licensed Site Professional (LSP) is conducting daily dust monitoring. According to the officials, the results have always been in a safe range that was never any threat to people.

At the end of the project, all of the sites affected by construction will again be covered with a two foot cap of clean soil.

Until several decades ago, asbestos was used for insulation, paint, fabrics, auto parts, walls and other materials. Due to its heat, fire resistance, and fiber strength, it was a popular element used for construction.

However, as the United States Protection Agency warns, it can have many negative consequences on one’s health. Most commonly, it causes asthma, lung cancer, and other severe lung diseases.