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Concerns raised over asbestos found in UM building

Posted at 7:50 PM, Feb 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-03 21:17:13-05

MISSOULA – Asbestos concerns are growing among the people who spent time in one University of Montana building.

There was a meeting held on Friday to address the concerns of the public and inform the public on efforts being made to fix the asbestos problem in McGill Hall.

A company called Gem Environmental came in to perform the first round of testing when concerns came forward there was asbestos in the mechanical room at McGill Hall on the UM campus.

This first test took place in mid-December.

It was later determined the levels seen were unacceptable, and the building – including the childcare center was closed. The closure left staff with questions about their safety and their health.

“My number one concern is you know my faculty my students my adjuncts that I’ve gone through that space for all this time and someone must’ve known that there was this asbestos in this building,” said School of Media Arts Director Mark Showgren.

“I went in in good faith thinking this is a safe place to work and now I have a concern that and when I have the rest of my life,” he added.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that’s concentration is measured in structures per square centimeter.

University of Montana officials say the standard they plan to adhere to was set by the US Environmental Protection Agency when working on clean-up efforts in Libby.

They say 5,000 structures per square centimeter was considered the point where cleanup was necessary.

They conducted both air and surface wipe tests. In a large classroom in McGill Hall, 20 thousand structures per square centimeter were present on the backs of computers.

All of this has people asking what about the other buildings on campus that were constructed during this time?

“You know, we are looking at amplifying our inspections and probably amplifying some of our testing schedules and protocols,” said University of Montana spokeswoman Paula Short.

“Particularly in light of what we’re seeing in McGill Hall because it would stand to reason that other places that were built around the same time would be experiencing the same deterioration,” she added.

Plans for further testing are being made and school officials hope to be able to determine the level of exposure the people who spent time in McGill Hall may have experienced.

That is one question being posed by parents of the children in the daycare located inside of the building.

Click here for more information on the asbestos testing.

Story by Lauren Heiser, MTN News