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Asbestos discovered at Yellow Brick School

Aspen Times Staff Report

Aspen’s Yellow Brick School, home to a number of day care programs, has become contaminated by asbestos, according to city officials.

The contamination was apparently caused by workmen installing a new boiler sometime during the past eight weeks.

The workmen broke open the covering on about three feet of asbestos-insulated heating pipe in the building’s basement boiler room. The asbestos released from that break was then tracked through the building.

The contamination occurred when as many as 80 children a day were in the building for day care.

“Right now, we’re treating this like a catastrophe,” said city Asset Manager Ed Sadler. “Then, as we complete our testing, we’ll work back from there.”

Sadler said he didn’t want to minimize or dismiss the seriousness of the situation, but officials expressed hope that any actual danger to the building’s occupants would turn out to be minor.

Asbestos fibers have been found in the air in the boiler room and in the carpet on the main floor. No asbestos was found in the air on the main floor.

The contamination of the school building was announced Wednesday evening by Sadler, backed by Mayor Rachel Richards, City Manager Steve Barwick and Environmental Health Officer Lee Cassin.

Sadler said the Yellow Brick building has been completely shut down and will remain closed until all asbestos has been removed. The removal and clean-up could take two weeks, possibly less.

The day care programs, which were closed all week, are expected to resume Tuesday, Sept. 5, as scheduled, in alternate locations.

The contamination was discovered Monday morning by special state-certified workers, who were there to remove the school’s ancient, asbestos-encased boiler and heating ducts.

When the workmen went into the basement boiler room, they found that one section of asbestos-covered pipe had been removed. The protective covering had been broken open, and the asbestos insulation was lying on the floor.

At that point, according to Sadler, the workers switched from removing the asbestos to assessing the extent of contamination.

The building was shut down, the contaminated boiler room was sealed off, and testing began immediately, according to the city officials. Samples were taken that day and sent out for testing. Test results came back Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Sadler.

The asbestos in the main-floor carpets seems to be the result of workmen from the basement tracking the fibers upstairs on their shoes.

Additional, more extensive tests are being carried out throughout the school. Results are expected late this week or early next week.

The work in the boiler room was part of ongoing renovations at the Yellow Brick building, which dates back to the 1960s.

Workmen began installing the new boiler on July 5. Plans called for the old heating system to be removed, along with all its asbestos, this week, when the day care program was on vacation.

City Manager Barwick said the asbestos contamination did not happen earlier than July 5. He said the boiler room was examined earlier and no problems were found.

Health Officer Cassin said that, although there was no asbestos in the air in the main part of the school this week, it was possible that there had been some asbestos in the air when the workmen were going in and out of the basement.

Cassin said that there are no immediate symptoms of asbestos exposure and that any health problems arising from such exposure can take 20 years or more to appear.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance. Its tiny fibers can be inhaled and become lodged in people’s lungs, causing a variety of serious health problems.

Those problems, however, according to health experts, only occur when asbestos fibers are inhaled in high concentrations over an extended period of time.


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