University of Buffalo Removes Asbestos During Classes
The University of Buffalo has been removing asbestos insulation material from three areas on its North Campus – Clemens Hall, Governor’s Hall and the Ellicott Complex – and students and faculty are concerned because some of the work is taking place while classes are in session in those buildings.
While the work in the dorms was completed during the summer, abatement work on Clemens Hall is happening right now, students and professors say, and they’re not happy about the disruption as well as the dangers presented by exposure to the toxic material.
English professor Joseph Valente told the school newspaper that the work was disturbing his classes up on the 10th floor.
He has complained that numerous workers, loud construction noises, and the possibility of exposure to asbestos has prompted him to request to change classrooms.
He added that he’s not sure why the school is allowing anyone to teach in Clemens Hall at this time.
“I remained unconvinced that this whole asbestos problem could simply be contained by shutting doors,” Valente said. “I was unhappy with the prospect of having to take my students up to this classroom and for them to have to be going to this class past potential asbestos danger. Given the fact that they’re all young adults, that’s plenty of time for them to be harmed.”
Spokesperson for the university, Kate McKenna, said she’s not concerned about the work happening while school is in session. She said the trained experts that have been hired by the school comply with all the asbestos-related rules and regulations of the state of New York.
“[Removal or] abatement activities are conducted only as allowed by NYS Code Rule 56 which requires isolation of the abatement area from your work or travel area,” McKenna said. “You cannot inadvertently wander into a containment area. Signage is required to give you guidance; physical barriers will not permit your entry into the space without significant effort.”
Still, Valente says he’s not at all comfortable being in a classroom down the hall from where much of the work is happening. He believes this all should have been completed during the summer when no one was inside the building.
“Clearly, this is something from my perspective that’s been mishandled,” Valente said. “This is something that they should’ve been working on in the summer. This isn’t an annoyance, this is a health risk. If it was just the noise it wouldn’t be ideal, but OK. But the health risk I wouldn’t simply capitulate. I suspect that ever since they added classes during the winter, there’s less time to do maintenance work, thus pushing everything off until the summer and into the fall. They need to find a better system.”