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EC Residents Evacuated After Finding Asbestos Under Carpet

By Rima A. Arnaout

Eleven East Campus residents were evacuated from their rooms at noon on Monday, when asbestos tiles were uncovered on the fifth floor of the east parallel.

On Sunday evening, residents of Fifth East ripped up some hallway carpeting due to be replaced on Monday. In doing so, they unwittingly dislodged asbestos tiles underneath that were glued to the rug.

"There's a lot of history in the carpet and we had several alumni express a lot of interest in getting parts of it," said resident Lex Nemzer '00.

The workers from Acme Carpeting Co., who were to install the new carpeting, realized that the tiles were asbestos, said Phillip M. Bernard, program manager for residence life.

"It was the actual carpeting company who recognized the tiles as containing asbestos, and wouldn't put down a carpet until it was abated," Bernard said.

The 11 students who had to be relocated on Monday night while workmen took care of the asbestos either stayed with friends or were provided for by the Office of Residence Life and Student Life Programs, Bernard said.

Nemzer said he "slept in the lounge, which was fine with me, but it would have been nice if they found us rooms," he said. If the administration set up cots in Talbot Lounge, East Campus residents weren't properly notified, Nemzer said.

John J. Ahern, the house manager of Senior House, was covering East Campus last week for the regular East Campus manager Geri-Lyn Sprague while she was out of town. Ahern declined to comment on the asbestos incident.

"The situation was actually handled very well by Jack Ahern and the students of EC who worked with the contractors to take care of this situation."

East Campus desk captain Jennifer A. Frank '00, involved in warning residents of the incident, agreed that the asbestos problem was remedied efficiently. "It really wasn't that dangerous of a situation," she said. "This is just the kind of situation you want to take care of quickly before it gets blown out of proportion."

Jed Z. Buchwald, East Campus' housemaster, voiced concern about exposure to asbestos in other old buildings around MIT. "There's asbestos around, no doubt about that," he said. "Any time that any sort of structural changes occur around campus, there's a risk that some of this will happen."

"I think the incident shows that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the residence halls," Bernard said.

At East Campus, new carpet now covers the spot where the asbestos tiles were broken, but replacement of all the carpeting as scheduled may now have to wait until the summer, when workmen can properly deal with the remaining tile, Bernard said.

Bernard said he was unsure how MIT would deal with asbestos removal in the long term.

Asbestos is a class of chemicals, several of which are carcinogenic. It is most dangerous when the item containing the asbestos is broken.