Surf City, New Jersey - New Jersey students will continue to be displaced as extensive clean up efforts continue at Beach Haven School after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the area as work is set to begin on abating the exposed asbestos. Though many schools in the path of the unprecedented storm have reopened in the new year, the damage to the Beach Haven School will keep its students attending nearby Eagleswood Elementary School until the end of the school year.
After commemorating the building's 100 years last spring, the age of the school is posing a significant challenge in the clean up efforts. Specifically, the first floor of the building held 2 feet of water for nearly two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, exacerbating any surrounding damage. The ocean water also loosened and severely damaged the tiled flooring allowing the asbestos adhesive to become exposed.
For a building of that age, finding asbestos is not all that surprising, said Beach Haven School Superintendent and Principal Patricia Daggy. Assuring the ravaged community that all safety precautions will be undertaken not only to renovate the building but also to address the significant environmental issues the exposed asbestos poses.
After removing or abating the school of asbestos, Daggy said that the school will undergo extensive environmental testing to ensure the property and the indoor air quality meet state and federal standards. “School buildings and hospitals are subject to the strictest building safety codes in the state,” said Daggy.
Asbestos is not a single material, but a set of naturally-occurring minerals commonly used in the twentieth century in building materials. Classified as a carcinogen or a cancer-causing agent, asbestos is highly toxic and asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.
Typically, if asbestos materials remain undamaged and intact, the toxin poses a very little threat. As in the case with the Beach Haven School, the concern is that since the floors were damaged, the asbestos is no longer intact. Small particles of asbestos contaminate the air, making it easier for asbestos exposure through inhalation.
Abating the asbestos and removing other potential health hazards is the first step in the total overhaul of the Beach Haven School. Then, the project focus will turn to renovating damaged classrooms and offices.
Tentative estimates put the total clean up of the school around $2 million. Bids for the renovation project are currently out.