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Asbestos found in Campus Center requires abatement of contaminated materials

After undergoing reconstruction from last semester’s flooding, campus officials find asbestos in the basement of Campus Center.

By Marcos Franco, News Editor

The basement of Campus Center which is in the process of being restored after asbestos was found following last semester's flooding. Wednesday, March 31, Valley Glen, Calif. (Photo by Marcos Franco/the Valley Star)

Campus Center remains closed since last September’s flooding, which has led officials to discover trace amounts of asbestos in the building’s basement after testing flooring materials.

In the process of restoring Campus Center from flood damage, maintenance workers tested materials and found small amounts of asbestos in the adhesive between flooring tiles. Although the test indicated between two and four percent positivity of contaminated substances, the levels were high enough to require abatement. So far, other parts of the building have not been tested.

“Before we did any construction work, we tested the materials to see if they contained asbestos which is a standard process in recovering from a flooding,” said Valley College President Barry Gribbons. “Right now we're going through the process of abating the asbestos materials, and then once the abatement is completed, we'll complete the restoration work.”

Campus Center is home to the majority of media arts classrooms, labs and stock rooms. After the flooding, storage spaces were forced to clear out, requiring some equipment to be moved to an undisclosed secure location. The relocation results from lack of storage space and also to prevent theft due to the six-figure value of the equipment. Although some items were damaged, most were able to be salvaged.

With the campus planning to introduce more in person classes next semester, it is undecided where media arts classes and labs will be held if Campus Center is not up and running by then. Once construction of the Valley Academic and Cultural Center is completed in 2023, the Media Arts Department will move to its new location within the building.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this that we really don’t know yet, but for us right now, it’s a major concern and headache because of the loss of instruction space,” said Media Arts Department Chair Eric Swelstad. “Almost our entire department — classes, labs, stock rooms — were located in the Campus Center, so we lost an extensive amount of our structural space down there which is really frustrating for us.”

The total cost of restoring Campus Center will exceed $1 million, according to Director of College Facilities Will Karrat. Both water remediation and abatement will cost the college at least $300,000 each in addition to the $170,000 replacement of transformers damaged in the flooding. A full list of equipment needing to be replaced by the insurance company and the monetary amount to go with those items has not been completed; however, the amount could potentially be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The campus finalized the abatement contract on April 5 and will proceed with removal of contaminated materials in the following days. It is expected to take four weeks to complete and once finished, the restoration process is planned to begin shortly after.

“We expect it [abatement] to be done well before the end of this academic year, and also to be underway with the restoration work before the end of the academic year,” Gribbons said.

Valley has struggled with asbestos outbreaks in the past, which have drastically increased the price and length of maintenance projects. It is not determined whether the basement of Campus Center will be completely restored by the fall semester to welcome back students; however, due to the large floor space the building sits on, the process could extend past the start of classes in August.

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