MISSOULA – The University of Montana announced on Thursday its decision to close McGill Hall for the foreseeable future due to unacceptable asbestos readings.
School officials hosted an informative meeting on Friday for students, staff and parents of children who attended the ASUM child care facility in the building.
Libby asbestos clean up efforts have been using the standard of 5,000 structures of asbestos per square centimeter as an acceptable level of asbestos and UM used that standard when testing McGill Hall.
Multiple tests over a couple of weeks failed that standard which left people with questions — especially those who sought ASUM childcare in the building.
“When can we expect a better idea of the exposure duration and it doesn’t sound like you are going to do aggressive testing so how are we going to be able to get an idea of what this kind of passive air testing indicates in terms of my daughters exposure,” parent Imre Devolder said.
“We will collect air samples on them to see what that exposure is so that gives us an activity that will disturb stuff get it up in the air and it would be a reasonable approximation of what children would be doing playing in the area,” Northwest Industrial Hygiene inc Representative Bob Brownell said
There was also concern from parents about cross contamination to their homes.
“Do we need to be concerned about asbestos contamination in our homes. I mean my child bringing home stuff on her boots her snow pants her clothes. Do I need to vacuum the house the walls? Do we need to throw out our couch?” Devolder asked
“You know washing is going to get the stuff that lose and easily gets airborne and then when you run it through the dryer it’s going to agitate it more break it loose and blow it outside but I can’t tell you that it’s going to get all of the asbestos fibers,” Brownell replied.
More questions will be asked by parents and UM officials are promising to continue answering those questions — but one more major question remains: Is the unacceptable asbestos level contained to McGill Hall?
“You know we are looking at amplifying our inspections and probably amplifying some of our testing schedules and protocols particularly in light of what we are seeing in McGill Hall because it does stand to reason other places that are constructed at the same time could be experiencing the same deterioration,” University of Montana spokeswoman Paula Short said.
Professors were able to get back into the building Friday afternoon to retrieve some of their things but the building will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
UM expects McGill Hall to be closed for the rest of the semester and has moved classes around campus to accommodate the long closure.
Click here for more information on the asbestos testing.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News