Asbestos Release Closes Connecticut School

An incident that occurred at Bethel High School in Bethel, Conn. on Tuesday night eventually resulted in the closing of the school on Thursday and Friday when the state Department of Health became concerned about the release of dangerous asbestos fibers.

According to an article in the News-Times, asbestos abatement workers who are working on a renovation project at the school were removing material on the second floor Tuesday evening when they dropped a science lab table top. An air sample was taken immediately after the accident and showed elevated levels of asbestos in the area.

The company responsible for the abatement, Eagle Environmental Inc., informed the state Department of Health of the test results and the agency requested that the school be closed until air quality levels were back to normal. However, school officials didn’t know about the incident until Thursday morning, when they received a fax from Eagle Environmental to inform them of the request by the health department.

Superintendent of Bethel Schools, Gary Chesley, says he’s not convinced that it was the table incident that resulted in the release of asbestos fibers.

“We found out about the testing results this morning (Thursday),” Chesley said. “And, frankly, we don’t know that this so-called ‘accident’ was the reason for the reading at all.”

He added that a meeting with Eagle Environmental cast doubt over the original explanation offered to the school.

“I think when they put all their heads together in one place at one time and began to figure out where this thing was dropped and where the bad reading was, they’re not convinced right now the two are connected,” Chesley said.

William Gerish of the State Department of Health said: “Our focus is to ensure there will be proper assessment and cleanup. What we’ll also be doing is reviewing the actions and evaluating the actions of the consulting firm to determine if appropriate steps were taken regarding its oversight of the abatement project, including the timeliness of reporting.”

“We had cleanup results indicating it was acceptable,” said Ron Folino of Eagle Environmental. “We have protocols we have to follow and sometimes the protocols kick in after the samples are analyzed, but you still have to follow the protocols.”

Jill Smith, who has a child in 10th grade, said she has every confidence the administration will appropriately handle the situation, but the apparent miscommunication between Eagle and the schools is of concern.

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