UM closes one of its buildings for elevated asbestos readings

Posted at 3:49 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 18:17:05-05

MISSOULA – A University of Montana building that houses child care classrooms and offices closed unexpectedly on Thursday.

In a campus-wide email on Tuesday, it said inspections throughout McGill Hall revealed dust contaminated with “unacceptable levels of asbestos” was found in the child care facility.

Memos on the door have been posted to tell students that McGill Hall has been locked and closed for the foreseeable future because of tests that have come back showing unacceptable levels of asbestos in the building.

UM was made aware of possible asbestos contamination when someone thought they had found some in a ceiling tile back in December.

“So we had earlier in December a worker here at the university that notified or identified some asbestos-containing materials when a ceiling tile was replaced and that has led to, since then, a series of tests to ensure that the building is safe and that there is not asbestos throughout the building,” UM Director of Communications Paula Short said.

In the meantime, students still need to attend classes and the Registrar’s Office is currently working on rescheduling and shuffling those classes around campus.

McGill Hall on the University of Montana campus in Missoula. (MTN News photo)

The University also moved ASUM childcare, which was located in McGill Hall.

“Earlier this week we had relocated ASUM childcare to the College of Education and Human Sciences. They are going to operate out of there for the foreseeable future,” Short added.

University officials stressed the amount of attention they have focused on this problem and already have plans in place to remedy the situation.

“So we don’t have a firm timeline on how long the cleanup will take. We actually have a three-fold approach to this issue, and that is one we need to find out were the asbestos contamination is coming from. We suspect that it’s related to thermal insulation in the piping we’ve got some consultants that are working on that right now,” Short said.

“Once we identify the source we will remove the hazard, whether that is through a repair or an abatement activity, and after that extensive cleanup and more testing to verify the building is indeed clear from asbestos,” she added.

There was a meeting for parents of ASUM childcare students Thursday, and on Friday there will be a general information meeting at noon in the University Center Theater.

The clean up will be conducted by facility services and the university is also using two certified industrial hygienists to ensure the building is asbestos free when it is reopened.

Short said the University will update campus and the public with more details as they become available and that information also is being posted online.

The following letter was sent out to UM students and faculty:

Asbestos test results received this morning have prompted University administration to close McGill Hall until further notice. Classes, labs and other activities will be rescheduled, and information will be posted on all exterior doors of the building.

We are expanding airborne and surface tests to analyze the entirety of McGill Hall. This will take several days to complete. At this time, all air quality tests in the building have indicated that the air is safe to breathe, but surface tests indicated the presence of asbestos in several locations. In an abundance of caution and because the safety of our students, faculty and staff is our highest priority, we made the decision to close the facility.

We recommend that McGill Hall employees leave all office materials and personal belongings in the building until they can be properly cleaned. This will minimize the risk of spreading asbestos fibers to other areas on or off campus. All offices and the building will remain locked and your items secure.

Employees should work with their immediate supervisors to make alternate work arrangements. Be advised that the building closure likely will continue for at least the next two weeks.

We will have an informational meeting at noon, Friday, Feb. 1, in the UC Theater.

We appreciate your cooperation as we make arrangements to ensure the safety of our community.

More information will be posted online at as it becomes available.

Paul Lasiter
Vice President for Operations and Finance

Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News