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Mount Greylock High Plans 'Aggressive' Asbestos Removal
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
12:01AM / Friday, June 01, 2012
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Superintendent of Facilities Jesse Wirtes is prioritizing his areas of the school for asbestos abatement.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional High School Superintendent of Facilities Jesse Wirtes has a busy summer ahead of him.

Wirtes is leading the charge in piecing together decades of documentation and planning out an "aggressive" asbestos abatement. The school has been removing asbestos as needed but Wirtes continues to find more — including air piping underneath the gym, in a closet in the band room and a closet in the kitchen.

The school has previously identified other asbestos in classrooms and floor tiles but the additional finds have raised questions of just how much asbestos is there. Wirtes and Building Subcommittee member David Backus are now organizing decades of files to find out what has been identified, what has been abated and what is unknown.

"We are extremely aggressive on this more than ever," Wirtes said on Thursday.

Backus said more recent reports have indicated asbestos is in areas that older documents say have been cleared. Every three years, a report is made regarding only where asbestos has already been identified. However, the files are in disarray and some of the reports could be missing information — and carrying  that into the next one.

"We are fairly confident that we understand what is going on in this building," Backus said of the progress they've made in sorting the documents.

Building subcommittee member Thomas Bartels said the school should do another comprehensive search for asbestos because nobody seems to know when one was done. Backus said he hopes to find that original report in part of the sorting of documents.

"If we cannot find that there was a comprehensive evaluation done then you have a reason to be concerned," Chairman Jack Hickey said.

Committee members said even if a complete report was not done, there is enough documentation of asbestos identified or removed that another study could pinpoint any unknown locations.

Bartels said a full study is likely going to have to be done at the school's expense if the school district is accepted into the state School Building Authority program to build a new school or renovate the current one. Bartels said the school should just get ahead of it and do a full study.

Wirtes invited a state inspector from the Department of Labor to tour the school and said she had no concerns about the school's plans and current safety.

"It's not a concern on a daily basis but needs to be removed," Wirtes said. "We are keeping a close eye on them."

All the identified asbestos is enclosed and not getting into the air, Backus said.

Wirtes said he will also be prioritizing asbestos removal. Right now, he is looking at the rooms in the kitchen and band room followed by classrooms in the central hallway and later the west corridor. The asbestos under the gym floor is secured but not a priority because Wirtes wants to install new air lines instead.

The piping under the floor had been shut off but the ducts have never been cleaned. A massive cleaning effort would be needed so Wirtes does not want to use those pipes at all. He said he has asked Adams Plumbing and Heating to estimate the cost of installing new vents along the roof.

Wirtes is also prioritizing other issues he is finding in the school, water from coming into the school.

Moisture is coming through the floor and hurting the air quality, he said. Last week, the humidity made it impossible to control. Wirtes said it will likely be costly to renovate the air systems to get the humidity out or install air conditioning units.

"I know we're waiting on an answer [from MSBA], but we're looking at four or five years and we still need to do something about these things," Wirtes said.

He said a motor for the generator has burned out and only half of the school receives power. When the school lost power on Tuesday, the cafeteria lost more than $1,000 worth of food because the refrigerators were not receiving power.
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