NUI Galway has allayed fears of an asbestos problem on campus after confirmation that the highly toxic substance had been removed from the campus on thirteen separate occasions between March 2010 and June 2014.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that asbestos was found and removed from locations like the iconic Quadrangle building, Nuns Island and the Fisheries Field.
Twelve out of the thirteen findings were in relation to refurbishments to existing buildings ranging from removal of windows to refurbishment of roofs. The other involved a building due for demolition.
The University stated that “the asbestos was safely removed in accordance with The Safety Health & Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006 and the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2006.”
They went onto say that the asbestos posed no danger to staff and students alike present on campus during its removal.
“Most of the asbestos removed was external to the buildings and was in the form of asbestos cement products on roofs or wall cladding. These were all carefully removed, strictly avoiding the use of any cutting or grinding of the cement products.
“All of the asbestos cement products were double wrapped in polythene and disposed of through licensed contractors” said a University spokesperson.
The contractors who were tasked with safely removing the asbestos from across the campus were John Higgins Builder & Contractor, John McNamara & Sons Ltd, Carey Development Ltd, Purcell Construction Ltd and JSL Group Ltd.
In relation to asbestos being found internally within buildings, the University were unequivocal “where asbestos was removed internally the areas were sealed off from students and staff in accordance with best practice. Airborne asbestos monitoring was also carried out for NUIG by Environmental Air Monitoring Specialists during and after the removal process.”
All these safety precautions mean that there was little or no risk of exposure to anyone on campus during that time.
The University stressed that there was a plan of action which was followed to safely remove the asbestos.
“The contractors removing the materials were working to a plan of work, wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment for the work, under the direction and supervision of a Project Supervisor Design Process and Project Supervisor Construction Stage and in accordance with best practice.”
While no students or staff members were put in any danger during the removal of the asbestos, the University have admitted the potential for more asbestos to be found on campus.
“In a campus with buildings ranging up to 170 years old, that potential exists [for more asbestos to be present on campus]. Arrangements for planning works on the university campus take account of the associated need for due diligence around this issue.”
The University’s policy of dealing with asbestos has been thorough in complying with their statutory obligations through “risk assessments and building surveys by specialists. The information is collated in an Asbestos Register which records details of known asbestos, an assessment of its condition, and, where removal is not currently required, what controls are in place to avoid exposure.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, made up of long thin fibres, which can be dangerous if they are inhaled as dust. They contribute to increased risk of lung cancer, scarring of the lung tissue, and mesothelioma – cancer of the lining of the chest and the lining of the abdominal cavity.