ALPENA — Instead of starting on anticipated building renovations as planned, Alpena County Library officials have been handed a significant curve ball. In the course of conducting an environmental assessment in preparation for the major renovations, asbestos has been discovered in more than 30,000 square feet of ceiling space.
With that news in hand, library officials also had the air quality throughout the building tested by Environmental and Asbestos Services of Alpena and determined there is no sign of asbestos in the air.
“We have been assured that the library is safe,” said Director Eric Magness-Eubank. “Asbestos is dangerous when it is breathed in over a long period of time. We have tested the air throughout the library and found no sign of asbestos in the air which patrons and staff breathe.”
The library was constructed in 1973-74 when asbestos was commonly used as a spray on texture for ceilings. According to Magness-Eubank, asbestos was banned in 1977, but no one realized until the environmental assessment that the substance had been used on both the upper and lower level textured ceilings. The newer portion of the library, where the meeting rooms and children’s programs take place, has never had asbestos.
Because both the asbestos removal and renovations are expected to be extremely disruptive to normal library services, he said the library will be working with architects and engineers to tackle both in the same general time frame.
Removal work on two small, self-contained sections of the library is slated to begin on Monday. Those sections are located away from the main areas of the building and will not impact daily operations.
Light fixtures in the ceiling also are removed. Then the ceiling is wet down and the material scraped off by hand. After this, a wire brush is used on the concrete surface until there is no sign of asbestos remaining.
As director, Magness-Eubank wants to assure patrons that the library remains a safe space to frequent and that if at any point it is determined otherwise appropriate steps will be taken.
“We have been told the library will be completely safe during the removal process,” he said. “We plan on being open during the fall of 2017. If the contractors tell us at any time that we will need to close, we will do so. During the large-scale project, we will be probably be closed at times, but it is too early to think about that now.”
He also said the library plans to keep the public informed as the work progresses. Copies of the air quality test results currently are available at the library’s website, www.alpenalibrary.org.
To read more about the Alpena Library please click on the link: Asbestos discovered in library ceilings