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NORTHRIDGE : Building to Reopen After Asbestos Leak

August 04, 1993|JILL LEOVY

Sierra Hall South at Cal State Northridge is scheduled to reopen today after Friday's release of cancer-causing asbestos particles inside forced professors and staff to evacuate the building.

Mike Christensen, CSUN's director of environmental health and safety, said CSUN maintenance personnel were ripping up floor tiles in the building Friday without the knowledge of the school's environmental health officials.

A contractor was called to the scene to test the air after workers, who were protected with respirators, asked whether asbestos might be present, he said. Although school records indicated that the tiles were asbestos-free, small amounts of the mineral were recorded, Christensen said.

The levels of chrysotile, a form of asbestos, were found to be well below the permitted exposure limit set by the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration when the contractors arrived on the scene, Christensen said.

A spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the release of asbestos may represent a possible violation of the district's air-quality regulations.

Notification of the agency is required for any construction work involving 100 square feet or less of asbestos-tainted materials, said Mike Czap, a section chief of the air toxics unit for the AQMD. The area disturbed by the tile removal was about 800 square feet, said Kurt Gates, a consultant with Cape Environmental Management of Torrance.

Czap said the agency had no notice on file from CSUN or Cape Environmental Management regarding the asbestos release and cleanup, and added that it would be difficult for the agency to investigate since several days have passed since the incident occurred.

One employee in the three-story building, who declined to be identified, said that about 50 people were evacuated from one wing on Friday. On Monday, all the office workers in the building were notified that they would be put on administrative leave until Sierra South was found to be safe.

Cape Environmental sealed off the area where the work was done Monday, then wet down and scrubbed all surfaces where dust may have accumulated, Christensen said.

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