By Katie Friedman Correspondant
At their most recent meeting, Monday, May 14, members of the Maple Lake School Board voted to begin a process of asbestos abatement in school classrooms that promises to be lengthy, costly and ultimately, they believe, worth the trouble.
The problem lurks beneath linoleum floor tiles that for many years have covered – and effectively sealed – an original underlayment of tile and glue that both contain asbestos, which was once a common construction material ingredient that has since proven to be a highly toxic health threat. And while the Maple Lake School District has passed all of its air quality inspections, time and use have caused predictable wear in the cover tiles, to the point where the underlayment’s outlines are beginning to show through.
Superintendent Mark Redemske said $25,000 has been set aside this year to address the situation, with a plan to begin recovering this summer and continue incrementally over coming years. He offered the board two options: either covering the toxic tiles over one more time, or tearing them up and following through with an abatement process before installing any new covering. For the first option, as many as seven or eight classrooms could be upgraded this year with the money at hand, though a risk would exist for eventual seepage from repeated cleanings. For the second option, he said, two rooms each summer would be the best the district could do.
The floors’ underlayment, he added, is one of the few remaining areas of the school that contains asbestos. Others include piping insulation in parts of the tunnels and upper levels of the penthouse areas. When the high school boiler room was updated with a new burner and water heater, that area was entirely mitigated, and to address each area as the need arises has been the district’s approach to the problem for the past several years.
Abatement, he noted, is expensive, as it involves second and third parties for safety and oversight.
There was little discussion, as general consensus after an April walk-through had been in favor of dealing with the issue rather than covering it up and putting it off. Though Board chair Joe Paumen and Boardmember Chris Paumen were not present, both had expressed similar sentiments at the walk-through, and a motion to proceed with abatement prior to any upcoming floor work was passed unanimously. The project will begin this summer with at least one classroom and perhaps a portion of the office area, as budgeted funds allow.
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