URI faculty, staff move back into Chafee low-rise section
Lecture halls ready for start of classes Sept. 5
KINGSTON, R.I., -- August 31, 2001 Following removal of materials containing PCBs and the replacement of windows, gaskets and caulking, the University of Rhode Island has begun moving faculty and staff back into the low-rise section of the Chafee Social Science Center.
While two earlier rounds of tests showed little or no presence of polychlorinated biphenyl, remediation work has been completed in the large lecture halls, and they will be open when classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 5. Cleanup and testing work continues in the eight-story section of Chafee, which is isolated from the sections of the building that are being reopened.
Among the groups that have moved back in are Instructional Technology and Media Services; the Psychological Consultation Center; Journalism, and some personnel from the School of Education. About 40 faculty, staff, and graduate students are moving back in.
In accordance with the federal Environmental Protection Agency approved procedures, tests on samples of air, of contact and work surfaces, and of bulk material (building materials), have been conducted in all areas where faculty and staff are now located. Most wipe samples showed no detectable levels of PCBs, while the air samples in the occupied spaces were well below the clearance standards set by the EPA for the remediation project. Building materials containing PCBs have been removed.
"Because the clearance test results are well below the EPAs standards, we have been able to proceed in getting a portion of Chafee opened," said J. Vernon Wyman, URI assistant vice president for Business Services. "This is a welcome development for a number of faculty and staff members who have been eager to get back into their regular offices. It also means that we can open for classes with as little disruption as possible because four of our larger lecture halls are now back on line. So far, it has been a wonderful effort by everyone working toward a solution, and I deeply appreciate it."
The partial reopening of Chafee comes eight months after URI President Robert L. Carothers decided to close the building based on an initial round of testing and concerns over the health of faculty, staff and students there.
For the latest wipe samples of work surfaces, contact surfaces, heating and ventilation systems, and ducts, EPA required a standard of no more than 100 nanograms per square centimeter.
In the lecture halls, 64 samples were taken, and 62 showed no detectable levels of PCBs. Only two samples were above the detection limit of 1 nanogram per square centimeter at 1.7 and 3.6. Retests of those areas showed them to be at the detection limit.
In the low-rise portion of Chafee, 96 samples were taken, and 87 showed no detectable levels of PCBs. The remainder ranged from 1.2 to 3.0 nanograms per square centimeter, well below the standard of 100.
For the latest air samples, the EPA required a standard of 1,000 nanograms per cubic meter, which is based on a recommendation from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. In the lecture halls, six samples were taken, and the range was 48 to 158 nanograms per cubic meter.
In all occupied areas of the low-rise, PCB levels in air were well below the remediation standard. Six samples taken in the lecture halls ranged from 48 to 158 nanograms per cubic meter of air. In the occupied spaces in the low rise 29 samples were taken ranging from 29 to 289 nanograms per cubic meter of air. The location where the 289 level was obtained was re-sampled and tested after a period of 10 days at 110 nanograms per cubic meter.
"The lecture halls and the low rise are all well below the air thresholds for PCBs established by the EPA," Wyman said.
Results from samples collected in the two, exit-only stair towers in the low-rise were inconsistent. Wipe samples, used to assess the presence of PCB residues on surfaces, did not detect PCBs. Air samples from these same stair towers measured detectable levels of PCBs slightly below and above the EPA criterion for air.
Follow-up testing of these spaces in mid-August suggested that a low-level PCB residue or product still existed in these spaces requiring further evaluation and remediation. Preliminary data indicated that simply ventilating the stair towers lowered PCB concentrations to levels measured in the occupied spaces. URI has isolated these secondary limited-use stair towers, and is mechanically ventilating them while the additional evaluation, remediation, and testing work has progressed. While available for emergency egress, these stair towers will not be opened for general use until test results verify the conformance to the remediation standards.
The remediation work in the low-rise was completed on time. "Again, I want to let the URI community know that a major reason we are on time, is because of the diligent and timely efforts of Director Peter Corr and the Buyers at the State Division of Purchases helping us to secure the necessary contracts," Wyman said.
Work on the first two floors of the high-rise has been delayed because the type of caulking used in portions of the high-rise is different than that used in the low-rise, requiring additional steps in the removal process. Wyman said the first two floors of the high-rise are scheduled to reopen by Oct. 15.
Chafee was tested at the request of building occupants for the presence of a broad array of possible contaminants, including pesticides, during the fall of 2000. The results were delivered to the University on Dec. 18, 2000, and did not reveal a problem with pesticides, but did detect the presence of PCBs. Carothers made the decision to close the building on Dec. 23.
The goals of the abatements and cleanup as outlined by EH&E, the universitys environmental consultant on the matter are: Removal of building materials containing PCBs; cleanup of potential residues; meet EPA approved protocols and standards, install new, upgraded window systems, and restore the building for reoccupancy.
Following approval of the remediation plan by EPA in mid-May, two separate contracts were awarded for the window work and cleanup. Fenestration Inc. of Providence began removing windows in mid-May and Dec-Tam Corp. of North Reading, Mass. began the cleanup efforts in mid-June.
The remediation plan was developed based on test results released in early May that showed a positive link between the PCBs found in dust and air samples, and those found in window caulking and gaskets. Workers have been removing gasket materials from the exterior windows and interior observation windows for the Psychological Consultation Center; caulking from the window frames; mastic from the front and side panels of the unit ventilators, and dust from the unit ventilators. While essentially free of any detectable levels of PCBs, the ductwork in the building has been subject to a thorough cleaning process, Wyman said.
Window work includes: aluminum frame removal; gasket and caulking removal; removal of frames for cleaning and recycling, and treating of cleaned frames, to ensure cleanliness prior to disposal.
The total cost of the work, including an epidemiological study of those who have worked in Chafee, has been estimated at $3.8 million. Wyman said the Chafee project is a top priority in the URI Capital Improvement Program. About 220 windows are being replaced. Support for the project will be derived from the state asset protection fund. Materials removed in the remediation process are being segregated into appropriate waste categories and disposed of in accordance with all regulatory guidelines.
Once abatement and re-occupancy have been achieved, EH&E will conduct periodic follow-up monitoring of the building to ensure that cleanup goals continue to be met. EH&E will work with the Chafee Advisory Committee and URI administrators to determine final and ongoing monitoring schedules.
For Information: Linda A. Acciardo 401-874-2116, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116, Vern Wyman, 401-874-5478