Source: http://washingtonexaminer.com, March 9, 2011
By: Kytja Weir
Asbestos has been found during renovations of Metro’s Farragut North and Union Station stops, The Washington Examiner has learned.
Crews have been quietly working during off-hours to remove the cancer-causing flame retardant since last week, according to the transit agency. The remediation work is expected to last until mid-April. The material was found in the jointwork of ducts in mechanical rooms, under platforms and above suspended ceilings, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said Wednesday.
The agency said air monitoring conducted in the affected areas has shown that airborne fiber concentrations have been well below general industry standards since the work began.
“Also, the locations are in areas that are not accessible to the public,” Taubenkibel said.
Crews had been working on Farragut North’s ceilings for more than a year before the remediation began in November 2009. Crews had found cracks in the ceiling after a worker noticed a dislodged ceiling tile during an inspection.
“Riders should not be concerned as long as the joint materials are not disturbed,” Taubenkibel said.
Asbestos was commonly used in construction as a fire retardant and as insulator. But when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed, microscopic fibers of the mineral become airborne. When inhaled into the lungs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, they can cause significant health problems including lung cancer.
Workers found the asbestos when removing ductwork at the two stations as part of a multiyear $177 million Red Line rehabilitation project, Taubenkibel said.
The asbestos was “securely embedded” in the gasket material that seals the sections of the duct together, he said. It would only become a concern if the gasket material was disturbed, he said. Instead, the remediation teams are cutting the ducts between the joints to avoid disrupting those areas.
Crews have been working at night when the rail system is closed, Taubenkibel said, “using safe methods that contain all materials for proper disposal.”
The agency also turned off the two stations’ air flow systems before the work began so the particles do not circulate, he said.
“We will be checking at other stations before the HVAC systems are replaced but we don’t expect to see it at other stations,” he said.