Asbestos Resurfaces at NJ High School

Asbestos has been discovered for a second time at a Rutherford, New Jersey parochial high school where the hazardous material had been removed last November.

School officials at St. Mary’s High School reported last week that asbestos had once again been found in the wrestling team’s locker room and on a steam pipe in the cafeteria.

An article in the Herald News stated that parents of the 350 students who attend the school were informed of the asbestos discovery by letter. Many were concerned about exposure, but archdiocesan officials told the parents there was no reason to be alarmed.

We addressed concerns that there could have been a possible episode, said James Goodness, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, which includes St. Mary’s Parish. We were not aware that there was a concern before anybody called. We felt that we had done all we needed to do.

Goodness explained that the archdiocese’s property maintenance team had scrubbed the steam pipe in the cafeteria at the high school on Chestnut Street, which had been originally wrapped in asbestos, after a leak in November 2006 and thought that the issue had been remedied. When EPA officials came to the school for inspection last week, they advised the archdiocese to take another look at the pipe.

Although we believed that the scrubbing had removed all traces of asbestos, the investigator felt that some trace or residue might still exist on the pipe, and ordered a re-scrubbing, according to the letter from parish officials.

The letter to parents also indicated that pieces of asbestos found in the locker room may have been dislodged during renovations of a nearby bathroom.

It is possible that the asbestos became detached while the tiles in the bathroom were being replaced or when some of those pipes were being replaced at an earlier time,” the letter said. “Since this situation created a potential ‘fiber release episode’ in the event ceiling tiles needed to be removed, however, it was determined that the school needed to arrange for removal of the fallen asbestos and recovering of the pipes.

The few loose pieces of asbestos sitting on top of the tiles are going to be removed according to the guidelines and replaced according to guidelines, Goodness said.

The results of air quality tests taken at the school will not be available for about 6 weeks.

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