The Board of Education in Wayne County, West Virginia has encountered one large, toxic structure that stands in the way of the opening of a brand new elementary school for their community. It’s a huge set of bleachers which, they recently discovered, are covered with hazardous asbestos-containing paint.
Now, the district must decide how to handle this issue and what might be the most cost-effective way to make the area safe again.
Interim Superintendent of the district, Steven Paine, told locals that there was no cause for concern and that the bleachers don’t pose a problem for those who use them or for kids playing on them.
However, a photo of the bleachers in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch show an old decrepit structure with peeling paint that could very well be dangerous to the health of those who use the bleachers regularly.
Nonetheless, Paine told those assembled at a recent meeting that the district is indeed prepared to follow proper regulations regarding asbestos-containing materials, whether they decide to refurbish the bleachers or tear them down.
Many community members want the bleachers restored, but the district will need to weigh the costs.
“When you get into asbestos, things can get tricky,” Paine said. “Anytime we have members of the community who are passionate about a cause, we want to capitalize on that and support them, but there are procedures that will have to be followed.”
Many decades ago, the mineral fiber asbestos was often added to paint in order to increase its resistance to heat and corrosion. The use of asbestos paint ended in the late 1970s, so it’s obvious that it’s been some time since these bleachers were renovated, if at all.
Individuals exposed to asbestos paint could potentially inhale toxic fibers, which can become lodged in the lungs and eventually cause tumors.
The options for addressing the bleacher situation will include removing the hazardous paint, which will need to be done by a licensed company who deals with asbestos.
Once the paint is removed, any hazardous materials will need to be disposed of at a waste facility that accepts toxic material. There is also a possibility that the asbestos-containing paint could be somehow encapsulated, but that is less likely.
It is probable that the district may decide to remove the large structure altogether, but when asbestos is involved, that means more than just bringing in a bulldozer, knocking it down, and carting away the remains.
Instead, the structure will have to be carefully dismantled so as to avoid any airborne asbestos fibers and all materials will need to go to a toxic waste dump.
Removal of the bleachers could cost about $30,000, Paine said.
In the meantime, the newly-constructed Ceredo-Kenova Elementary School can’t open until this situation is addressed, which has locals frustrated.
“The fact is we are in a different realm on that project now,” Paine said. “But, we will do whatever is needed to ensure the safety of the community and to ensure that beautiful new school is safely opened.”