Wethersfield High School recently received approval from its town council for additional funds to remove asbestos in its pool area. The cost of removing asbestos from the ceiling and duct work recently increased from $50,000 to $466,000.
The added finances resulted from unforeseen asbestos and PCBs found during the three-year reconstruction of the building. Originally, the building plans did not include any work to the pool area, so the hazardous material was not found until recently.
“This is definitely a speed bump,” said Deputy Mayor Steve Barry. Asbestos exposure could lead to mesothelioma cancer if the material is disturbed or damaged.
Over the course of the construction project, the budget has skyrocketed from $10 million to $85 million, with the state of Connecticut providing extra money needed to complete it. Some of the money has been targeted for air testing and monitoring during the asbestos removal process, which will take place before August 31st when classes begin. The pool portion of the building will remain closed while the work is completed.
Wethersfield High School isn’t the only school containing asbestos where students will return to this fall. Last week, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Gary Cohn published an article about the devastating effect of asbestos in schools.
“Asbestos continues to be a problem in schools, leaving students, teachers, and staff at risk,” says Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).
“It’s a significant problem,” says Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “Any school built before 1981 is presumed to contain asbestos materials.”
“It’s asbestos in a huge majority of our schools. Our public schools are riddled with it,” says Ocean View School District President Gina Clayton-Tarvin.
“We’re working as quickly as we can to get it open as soon as possible,” said Wethersfield School Building Committee Chairwoman Christine Fortunado. “Getting the facility back on line is a top priority.”
Parents were upset about the news. Not opening the pool will result in the girls’ swim team needing to find a different place to practice and the cancellation of several school programs.
“The good news is that the structure will no longer contain asbestos,” said Fortunado. “This will be a clean bridling when we are done.”