Kansas Dept of Health and Environment to inspect asbestos removal at Oliver Hall

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will inspect the University of Kansas’ removal of asbestos from Oliver Hall after bags of asbestos were left outside the building on the sidewalk.

The bags of asbestos were first spotted outside of Oliver Hall in May. The bags of asbestos have blank labels for who generated the asbestos waste, the generator’s license, and the location of where the waste was generated.

K.A.R. 28-50-14 a 3, one of the regulations on asbestos disposal in Kansas gives three methods that asbestos waste may be labeled. The asbestos can have either, the name of the licensed business or public agency along with the location that the waste was generated, the identifying number provided by the KDHE showing compliance with state regulations on asbestos project notification, or a label that meets federal OSHA or EPA regulations on containers used for the disposal of asbestos.

The OSHA guidelines apply to employers and employees in work areas, it is unclear if they apply when left on the sidewalk without signage of a work zone or active construction.

Bags of asbestos piled in a dumpster on the sidewalk outside Oliver Hall in May. The dumpster was outside of Oliver Hall until around August. Photo by Wesley Cudney

Over the summer, a dumpster was placed outside Oliver Hall and initially had furniture torn up and disposed of. After being emptied, it was filled with bags labeled asbestos. In the bags was the loose pipe casing that was above every bed in Oliver hall, according to Mark Reiske, the director of KU Facilities and Planning Department. The dumpster of asbestos was eventually removed shortly before the beginning of the fall semester.

The unit supervisor for performance testing and asbestos control at the KDHE, Philip Schlaman, said, “I can take a look to see what we’ve got going on, on a daily basis and to make we’ve got good practices,” said Schlaman. “It’s always good to have the public watching, it helps us out on these things. I’ll be happy to check this out.”

KU director of Environmental Heath & Safety Mike Russel said, “I would certainly like to see a picture so I can talk to our contractor about that to make sure they never make that mistake again,” After viewing the images, Russel said everything appeared to be following regulations, but that the lack of construction fencing keeping the public out concerned him.

The process for removing asbestos is called abatement, and the director of KU Student Housing Sarah Waters said the asbestos in Oliver Hall is being removed to prepare the building for demolition.  

Student Housing previously cancelled a $26 million renovation and refused to answer whether Oliver was to be demolished or not while saying there were no plans to reopen the residence hall, according to KCTV5 in February. There is no timeline yet for the demolition of the permanently closed residence hall.

Incomplete labels on bags of asbestos outside Oliver Hall in September. KU director of Environmental Heath & Safety Mike Russel said there appeared to be no regulatory violations, but there should be fencing keeping the public out. Photo by Wesley Cudney.

Since the removal of the dumpster, bags of asbestos are still piled outside of Oliver Hall and then occasionally removed. There are still no signage or warnings aside from the bags themselves. Waters directed questions about the asbestos to KU’s Facilities and Planning Department.

“Asbestos containing materials in Oliver Hall included floor tile, acoustic ceiling texture, pipe insulation and mechanical insulation,” Reiske said. “The floor tile, acoustic ceiling texture and pipe insulation are throughout the building.”

Reiske said the abatement of the building is almost complete, with only the basement left to be completed.

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