Union taking a safety break

By Charles Ratliff

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When UA's facilities design and construction repairs the leaks in the Student Union's deck, they will also eliminate a second potential hazard to students and workers.

Asbestos, which can cause cancer when its fibers are trapped in human lungs, will be removed from beneath the decks students walk on every day. The asbestos-containing material was first laid in a waterproofing membrane to prevent leaks between the floors, but with old age, cracks between the decks now allow water to flow down, eventually coming to rest in the Student Union basement.

The construction project will begin on Friday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. when the contractor takes possession of the project, said Joseph Sottosanti, Student Union program coordinator.

"The contractor promises us, barring any rain delay from holding him up, that they will finish the first floor project in 10 days," Sottosanti said. He said the contractors will be working 24 hours a day until the first floor is done.

The project involves tearing apart and repairing three decks at the west end of the Student Union over the next 90 days, Sottosanti said. He said the waterproofing project should take care of the leaking decks' leaking problems.

The project involves removing the concrete walkway and the waterproofing membrane beneath the three-inch surface, said Gary Bagnoche, UA construction project manager.

"The critical period is the first ten days," Bagnoche said. He said the project will concentrate solely on the mid

first deck of the Fiddlee Fig courtyard while students are away during Spring Break.

As a safety precaution, UA Risk Management will be on hand to monitor the safety of the crew as well as potential asbestos exposure hazards.

"There are a number of things in place to prevent exposure," said Colleen Morgan, safety specialist.

Most importantly, Morgan said the crew are all Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act trained. This means they have been certified to handle asbestos-containing materials.

All the workers will be wearing protective clothing and masks, Morgan said. Also, the removal process involves cordoning off the area and wetting down the old membrane while scrapping it out with hand tools.

The material in the membrane contains a level of 5 to 30 percent asbestos, Morgan said, and the material makeup of the membrane "refuses" to release its fibers. Coupled with the wetting process, virtually no fibers will be released, she said.

"Through those procedures there should be no contamination of the area, building, or workers," he said.

The waterproofing project should be completed in 90 days, Bagnoche said.

Morgan said the floors trap and hold water, forcing it to flow through cracks or holes in the decks. The new decking will contain "pockets" that will hold the water while allowing the water to evaporate, thereby preventing the water from its continual travel downwards.

As to the leaking roof, Sottosanti said there has been nothing scheduled as yet to repair the leaks, but the university has $500,000 in a construction account solely for that purpose.

During spring break, the Fiddlee Fig will remain open, Sottosanti said, but no access will be allowed from the west corridor. Students can enter the Fiddlee Fig from inside the Student Union or the northwest entrance.

Read Next Article