Water main replacement includes minor asbestos abatement
Workers are continuing to construct roughly 1,600 feet of 8‐inch and 12‐inch water lines to replace the aging 6‐inch water main which runs through the core of central campus. The project scope of work also includes the replacement of fire hydrants and the building service connections and water meters. The new 12‐inch water main and fire hydrants will become part of the City of Bellingham's water system at project completion.
Recently, excavation for the new water pipe was obstructed by an underground 1920’s clay pipe. The clay pipe itself is non-asbestos but contains abandoned steam and condensate piping covered with asbestos-containing insulation. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber widely used in building construction and other industries.
Most asbestos is immobilized in binding materials that do not release asbestos fibers into the air so where found intact, the clay pipe was removed from the new pipe trench by using approved measures to encapsulate all open ends. Where the clay pipe was damaged, the site was closely monitored by a third-party consulting firm specializing in asbestos safety. Certified asbestos abatement workers performed the abatement and properly disposed of the asbestos found below ground without creating an asbestos exposure risk to campus personnel and visitors.
Late last week, unlike previous excavation, pieces of clay piping were found in the excavated dirt in the Rose Garden between Old Main and the Humanities Building. The dirt was tested and found positive for asbestos at greater than 1-percent concentration on Friday, July 13. The dirt was immediately covered and work stopped.
The risk from asbestos is only increased if there is personal exposure to airborne fibers. Presence of asbestos in the dirt is not a hazard without creation of friable asbestos particles that are breathed in. The risk to campus personnel and visitors is considered negligible.
Asbestos found in the excavation area will be completely removed before a new water line segment is installed. The new water line will be properly flushed prior to connection to the existing potable water line and there will not be contamination of our potable water system from asbestos fibers.
A detailed plan to properly abate and dispose of the contaminated dirt to ensure the safety of personnel in the area and the safe continuation of the project is being developed. In all cases, appropriate, established asbestos controls are to be used as required by federal and state regulations.
The ongoing health and safety of students, employees and visitors of all ages are preeminent in handling asbestos-related materials.
Stay tuned to Western Today for future updates on this and other ongoing projects.
For more information, contact project manager Sandy Fugami from the Office of Facilities Development and Capital Budget at (360) 650-2230 or email@example.com, or Gayle Shipley, director of Environmental Health & Safety, at (360) 650-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.