Workers rip up asbestos with carpet

PROSPECT — Long River Middle School is closed for the time being after workers removing carpet exposed asbestos while a summer camp was going on at the school.

Workers from Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls, were pulling up carpet from the guidance office at the school Tuesday and Wednesday. As they were ripping up the carpet, some tiles stuck to it and were pulled off as well, Superintendent of Schools Tim James said.

“At that point, the work should have immediately ceased and the process for testing the tiles, and the mastic that had affixed it to the floor, should have been initiated to determine if asbestos was present,” James wrote in a letter to parents. “Unfortunately the work continued and some of the materials were improperly disposed of.”

James said the carpet and pieces of tiles that were stuck to it were bagged in the office and wheeled to a dumpster at the school.

While the work was going on, the town was running its annual summer camp program at the school. James said, in a phone interview, there were about 130 people at the camp, including children, counselors and counselors in training.

The camp was being held in about a dozen classrooms not near the guidance office, James said.

The incident was brought to the attention of local officials through an anonymous message left for Prospect Fire Marshal Keith Griffin Wednesday night.

Griffin said he went to his office at about 10 p.m. to get something when he noticed he had a message. The caller, who didn’t leave a name or phone number, told Griffin in the message that some rugs and tiles at Long River had been pulled up and it was questionable if there was asbestos in the tiles, Griffin said.

Griffin said the caller told him exactly where to find the debris in dumpsters at the school.

At about 7:15 a.m. the next morning Griffin went the school to investigate and Mayor Robert Chatfield was already there. They found the carpet and tiles exactly where the caller said, Griffin said.

Chatfield and Griffin spoke with Dave Langdon, the supervisor of facilities and maintenance for Region 16, who was at school, and questioned when the tiles would be tested for asbestos, Griffin said.

After seeing the carpet and tile, Chatfield said the decision was immediately made to move the camp.

Chatfield said he met everyone coming to the camp at the school Thursday and Friday mornings to tell them it had been moved regarding concerns over air quality.

James was notified of the situation last Thursday morning as well.

Griffin contacted the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which sent a representative to the school immediately.

Representatives of Facility Support Systems, the school district’s asbestos management consultants, and officials with the Chesprocott Health District, which serves Prospect, also responded to the school.

Tests were done on the tiles and air quality in the school.

The tests revealed there was some non-friable asbestos in the tiles, James said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, non-friable means any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that when dry, can’t be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure.

The asbestos found was dry, James said.

Air quality samples from 12 different areas of the school were collected and tested. The results came back as “nondeductible,” or negative, for airborne asbestos, James said.

“That was wonderful for the kids,” Griffin said.

Chatfield said town staff and volunteers called the parents of every child attending the camp to inform them of the situation. The camp will continue at Algonquin School.

“Everything went very well,” Chatfield said. “I’m very relieved there was no airborne stuff found.”

James and Chatfield thanked the parents, children and counselors from the camp for their cooperation. They also expressed gratitude for the assistance given by Chesprocott and the work of town and state officials.

James and Chatfield said they have not received any complaints regarding health issues. Chatfield said the application of every child at the camp will be sent to the health district just to be kept on file. He said there’s no monitoring required by the district.

James said an abatement plan is being developed. The school remains locked.

James said the hope is to have adults in certain parts of the building by Aug. 1.

A special Board of Education meeting was held July 21 at which representatives of Facility Support Systems reviewed the test results with the board, according to James.

The abatement work has gone out to bid, James said. The bids are scheduled to be opened Aug. 11.

“The Board of Education has been fully informed and is committed to thoroughly addressing this matter and all concerns or issues that may emerge over time,” James wrote in the letter.

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