Aspen School Must Remove Vermiculite from Walls

Thanks to recent changes in federal asbestos abatement regulations, the Aspen (Colorado) School District must spend nearly a million dollars to remove asbestos-laden vermiculite from the walls of a school that is being readied for demolition.

According to an article in the Aspen Times, the necessary asbestos abatement project at the old Aspen Middle School carries a price tag of $927,298, prompting the board to put some other expenditures on hold because of the heavy cost of ridding the building of asbestos before it’s torn down.

Thirty years ago when the middle school was constructed, vermiculite was pressed into the walls to act as a fire retardant. “This natural substance, which has been shown to sometimes contain traces of cancer-causing asbestos, now is on the list of substances that are considered hazardous to human health and must be removed,” the article points out. The removal of the vermiculite must be done by specially trained and equipped workers, it adds.

Superintendent Diana Sirko said last year that the district was caught unaware by a recent change in federal asbestos abatement regulations, which formerly did not mention vermiculite. The choices were either to leave the old school in place or spend the money to remove the vermiculite before demolition. The school board chose the latter.

Officials for the school board hope the demolition will begin early this summer, after students finish the school year, in order to avoid potential health hazards associated with asbestos. The new middle school the students now attend sits just beside the old one. Playground facilities will be placed where the old school now stands.

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