New London Intermediate/Middle School will undergo a $14,000 asbestos removal project in its boiler room next summer.
The health of students and staff is not at risk, said Joe Marquardt, the district’s business services director. Rather, this is an effort more than 10 years in the making for the district to check off its to-do list.
While Marquardt said it would be safe to carry out the work in the presence of students, the school will wait until next summer. He said the district favors an “overly protective” approach when it comes to the well-being of its 2,400 students and staff.
The undertaking will begin in June after school lets out. Asbestos Removal, Inc. out of Green Bay will clear asbestos from a 290-square-foot decommissioned Kewanee boiler, two boiler doors, gaskets and 43 pipefittings. The New London School Board approved the company’s $13,899 bid at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The Kewanee boiler might be the original that served the school when it was built in 1966, Marquardt said. It has sat unused for years, possibly since 1994 when new boilers were installed.
“So the boiler is going to remain there?” school board member Chris Martinson asked Marquardt.
It will in the short term, Marquardt said, but he added, “I’m sure that we’ll find a way to get that out of there also.”
The school underwent extensive asbestos removal in the 1990s, back when New London Intermediate/Middle School was a high school.
Board member John Michels asked Marquardt, “Is that pretty much it for the asbestos at the middle school?”
“There would not be any major items anymore,” Marquardt replied.
Marquardt told the Press Star Friday, Dec. 2, that beyond the boiler room, there is some asbestos in the bricks, tiles and ceilings. It poses no health risk unless an item containing it is crushed and the particles become airborne, Marquardt said. Even then, a person must eat or sniff the material to encounter problems.
The state inspects New London’s schools for asbestos every three years. The last time was in January. If inspectors would ever find a problem, the school would be notified right away, Marquardt said.
Asbestos was used in construction from the late 1800s until the Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of it in 1989. Exposure to asbestos fibers may lead to respiratory problems or cancer.
New London’s older schools – Parkview, Readfield and Sugar Bush Elementary, and New London Intermediate/Middle School – likely contain asbestos. The newest facilities, built in the ‘90s – Lincoln Elementary and New London High School – do not.
Because asbestos is safe when undisturbed, usually the district only removes it when it updates existing structures within a building, Marquardt said. In this situation, getting rid of asbestos is a necessary step before the district can throw out the old boiler.