Cleanup almost complete

Josh Centers

Black trash bags and steel chains on the doors give the Center for Research and Development an odd appearance as the building’s asbestos removal and cleanup nears completion.

Western closed the common areas of the center in June when asbestos was discovered in ceiling tiles, a press release from the university said. The tiles were thought to be from the original structure, built in the early 1960s.

“My understanding is that this type of ceiling tile is not a problem unless it’s broken up,” University spokesman Bob Skipper said. “They’re fine unless someone tries to remove them.”

The problem occurred when workers began removing the tiles as part of renovations, Skipper said. Asbestos fibers were released when the tiles were broken.

Asbestos, which was commonly used as insulation, has been linked to lung cancer and asbestosis, a degenerative scarring of the lungs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site.

The cleanup is costing the university $277,000 and is expected to be completed next week, the release said.

Skipper said the money is coming from the general budget.

Western received clearance on the last section of the building’s common areas on Monday, the release said.

Skipper said clearance means all parts of the building have been tested and no asbestos was found in the air samples.

The cleanup was headed by Interstate Environmental Services in Glasgow, Skipper said. They divided the area into five sections, removing asbestos and cleaning the remaining dust.

Despite the cleanup effort, businesses located in the center do not seem concerned about the potential hazardous condition.

“I’m not that worried about asbestos,” said Bowling Green sophomore Chris Mills, co-owner of hitcents.com. “The only thing that bothered me was that we couldn’t use the front door.

“They act like it’s this big deal, when it’s not,” he said.

Applied Physics Institute director Phil Womble is also not concerned about the asbestos.

The center, formerly the Bowling Green Mall, was purchased by Western in 2001 with a state appropriation and charitable contributions.

Reach Josh Centers at [email protected]