Details of Asbestos Report at High School, District Will Hire Firm to Remediate

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Superintendent Dede Galdston announced details of the report about the asbestos found in the Watertown Public Schools, Monday evening, including plans to remove some found in plaster on the walls of classrooms at Watertown High School.

The study was conducted by EFI Global, the consultant hired to do the work as part of the district’s requirement under the Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA). The schools must do the inspection every three years, and last week Galdston said that more powerful testing methods found asbestos not detected in prior years.

Asbestos was discovered in skim coat plaster at the high school. Air quality was also tested in the rooms where damaged plaster was found, and Galdston said that it came in 10 times lower than the limit allowed by the EPA. The measurement was .001 fibers per cubic centimeter, while the limit is .01 fibers per cubic centimeter.

Consultants found asbestos in a number of areas, and recommended treatments:

Drop Ceiling – 10 areas in the school. These areas will remain undisturbed.

Damaged Plaster – 33 areas found. Remediation includes encapsulating nicks, dings and slightly damaged plaster.

Significantly Damaged Plaster – 17 hours found. Encapsulate with encapsulant material or sheet rock/joint compound.

Floor Tiles – Found in two rooms. Replace floor tiles when the building is renovated.

Peeling Ceilings – 22 areas discovered. Treat by scraping paint and encapsulate.

Boiler Room Pipe – Encapsulate with wet wrap.

See the report on the high school here.

The next step is to create a plan to treat the areas of concern at the high school, which Galdston said would likely take 3-4 months. For the most part the remediation work will not impact students’ learning and efforts will be made to do the work at times when class is not open.

“There may be minimal disruption,” Galdston said. “There may be a few rooms that kids have to vacate for a day or two.”

The air quality in the areas being worked on will be monitored after each shift, said Sean Cassidy from EFI Global. Also, after a project is completed, students will not be let back into rooms until the results of testing show the room is safe. Therefore, work done over a weekend may mean a day out of the room while waiting for results, Galdston said.

In the meantime, the school will be monitored for other areas with asbestos that are damaged.

“There are ongoing roof leaks and through the facade (that could cause damage),” Cassidy said. “We did some thermal imaging during recent rains and we identified two rooms with active infiltration.”

Those rooms will be monitored for damage to the plaster, he added.

After the work is done, there will be check-ups every six months and another inspection after 3 years. Town Council President and School Committee member Mark Sideris said he wants the school to be reinspected sooner, and suggested a year after the work is complete.

Before the remediation can be done a firm must be hired to do the work. School Committee Chairman John Portz said the hiring process will likely take a couple of weeks. The district must follow state procurement laws, but Assistant Superintendent Mary DeLai said she hopes to get a waiver to speed up the hiring.

School Committee member Guido Guidotti said he wants to make sure the district hires the best firm, not necessarily the one with the lowest bid. DeLai said that anyone hired must be licensed by the state, so they will be qualified to do the work. Also, they will be required to pay prevailing wage. At the same time, the district will keep a close eye on invoices to make sure that Watertown is charged only for the hour worked, DeLai said.

A contract for a firm to do the asbestos remediation work will likely come to the School Committee for approval at its Nov. 13 meeting, Portz said.

Other Schools

Galdston also released information about what the asbestos study found at other schools.

Lowell Elementary: None found.

Hosmer Elementary: Asbestos was found on pipes inside the walls and in floor tiles, and will have check-ups every 6 months and a full inspection in 3 years.

Cunniff Elementary: Some asbestos was found in two areas of the basement that need remediation – around a pipe and in the floor tiles. The school will have 6 month check-ups and a full inspection in 3 years.

Phillips Building: An area of asbestos was found in the maintenance room that will need to be remediated. Will have 6 month check-ups and a full inspection in 3 years.

Watertown Middle School: Asbestos was found in the custodians closet that msust be remediated. There will be 6 month check-ups and a full inspection in 3 years.

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