Thursday, April 2, 2009

Asbestos issues update

Below is a copy of a memo sent yesterday to the Superintendent and Board members with an update on PPS asbestos issues.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Asbestos Issues Update- April 1, 2009

PURE Reform is pleased to report that the Pittsburgh public school district has responded to all of our questions to date regarding asbestos plaster in district school buildings (see the memo attached with our most recent comments in bold print) [NOTE: the information is posted on PURE's website, Featured Topic Asbestos Issues, bottom portion on follow up questions].

Further, after we presented our petition by over 200 city residents for an inspection of certain buildings with large amounts of asbestos containing plaster, the district informed us that it had retained two independent environmental consultants to conduct room by room inspections of the McKelvy/Miller, Vann and Woolslair buildings and to provide opinions as to risks that asbestos may pose in these buildings.

We do have the following concerns:

1) In a February 2009 letter the district stated that RL Kimball had surveyed Vann Elementary School prior to the start of the 2008 school year. We reviewed this report and found extraordinary and unexplained differences between Kimball's plaster survey and a plaster survey done by consultant AGX just four years earlier.

2) The environmental consultants' inspections ordered by the district are to be completed by the end of May, which is AFTER facilities consultants will have developed and presented facilities options to the public.

3) Our petition also requested an updated inspection of the Schenley building and comparison of the condition of the Schenley plaster to that of the plaster at McKelvy/Miller, Vann and Woolslair. This information would be relevant to the development of options by the facilities consultant. Further, given the disparity in surveys at Vann done by different consultants, it is important for all of the asbestos plaster buildings to be evaluated by the same consultant.

4) As described in the memo attached, it appears that the difficulty of addressing problems with the Schenley ventilation system has been overstated.

PURE Reform is heartened by the district's responses to our inquiries. However, as noted above, we do have questions regarding the equitable treatment of all Pittsburgh public school facilities with asbestos containing material and look forward to continuing to work with the district to resolve these concerns.



Mark Rauterkus said...

Get out!

I'm reading and waiting for the April Fool's part of the memo.


Or did my old eyes fail me at this late hour?

Keep plugging.

Questioner said...

Someone recently questioned the significance of investigation into issues of asbestos, ventilation, etc.

What it all relates to is cost. When we consider Schenley, are we really looking at a building that would require $80M+ in renovations to be useable? Or can it be made available for much less?

It is impossible to begin to discuss uses of this building without addressing cost and the assumptions behind cost figures.

Second, and also important, are issues of trust and credibility. If the public was given inaccurate or misleading information on this issue, how can there be trust and credibility going forward? With a weak foundation we will never build strong results.