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Asbestos Removal Project Takes Place at Locke Hall 

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Students gather outside of Locke Hall. A notice of the asbestos project can be seen on the right panel of the entrance to the building. Photo Courtesy of Ananya Hota.

Howard University has begun planning for the removal of asbestos, a carcinogen and cancer-causing agent, in Alain Locke Hall.

A notice was posted three days before the removal project’s estimated timeline on the glass pane attached to the hall’s entrance stating that the project will take place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4. However, administration has stated that the possible start date for the project is during the time frame from Sept. 26 to Oct. 24, according to Director of Operations, Strategy, and Communications Jarrett Carter Sr.

The company contracted to work on the asbestos remediation project is Irreno Construction and the rooms being currently prepared are B4, B6 and B44 in the basement. As of last week, the process has not begun yet, only furniture and building containment apparatus have been removed.

Carter told The Hilltop that, “Similar work has been done throughout the campus such as in the Chemistry Building and the Administration Building. Locke Hall is next up on our schedule. This is because it is a relatively smaller area that we have to cover.”

Carter mentioned that the removal of asbestos in buildings is a “multi-year phase strategy.” 

He also said that information will be sent out to staff, students and faculty about training modules, Q&A sessions and timetables on the progress of work once the remediation project begins.

The training modules, Carter mentioned, are the University’s effort to relieve any fears students, faculty and staff may have about asbestos and the project and to also underscore the University’s compliance with the city’s asbestos handling regulations.

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A notice of the asbestos removal project was posted at the entrance of Locke Hall. Photo by Ananya Hota.

As per the National Cancer Institute, asbestos fibers are resistant to fire and heat because of which it has been widely used in many different industries. One of the industries that used asbestos was the construction industry where asbestos acted as a strengthening agent for cement and other materials used in fireproofing and insulation purposes. “Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure.”

They also said people usually get sick from asbestos if there is prolonged or regular exposure to the substance. Most often those who come into direct or environmental contact or work closely with asbestos are affected severely.

D.C. Department of Energy & Environment  recommends that if there are traces of asbestos found in your workplace or home to not disturb it. They also said that, “If the material is relatively intact, it may pose no serious threat.”

Tyla McAffity, a sophomore biology major from North Carolina, told The Hilltop, “I just recently found out about asbestos in Locke…”

She said, “I think that Howard taking the time to fix the problem is good. However, this just shows that Howard needs to take more time and money prioritizing situations like these that are serious. We should not have to worry about having asbestos in a building where students are expected to attend classes.” 

Carter told the Hilltop about a measure that prevents the asbestos from spreading to other areas. He said, “A worker with the appropriate dress and suiting can go into an area, remove it [asbestos] in a certain way, come out and take that suit off in a certain place so that even particulates that maybe on a suit cannot get into common areas where people are working or walking.”

English professor Kyr Mack also expressed his feelings about the asbestos at Locke Hall. He said a number of memos by the dean’s office about the asbestos treatment were showcased at the entrance. 

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Mack also stated, “I think that while the University is trying to be proactive, they can do a better job of doing this in the summer rather than the fall, reason being is because it can be distracting to students for a number of reasons and teachers may be displaced from certain offices and classrooms.” 

Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee

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