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Asbestos found in Burton-Conner

By Kevin R. Lang

Twenty-nine Burton-Conner House residents were forced to evacuate their rooms Monday after asbestos tiles were found under carpeting on the fifth floor.

House Manager Kenneth Donaghey said that the tiles were found only in the main corridor of Burton Five, and that none of the adjacent rooms or suites were directly affected. However, removing the asbestos required blocking off the corridor.

“I believe from what I understand yesterday, they’re done cleaning,” Donaghey said. Once the contractor tests the air in Burton-Conner, the equipment should be taken down, Donaghey said. Residents are scheduled to move back in at noon on Saturday.

The tiles came loose and cracked when the carpeting was removed as part of maintenance to the dormitory.

Students find housing elsewhere

MacGregor House manager Robert Ramsay notified MacGregor residents on Tuesday that “There is an emergency need of temporary housing for residents of Burton-Conner,” and that lounges in the high-rise would be set up if necessary. Ramsay later notified residents that nine students from Burton-Conner had been given temporary housing in MacGregor: eight in high-rise lounge doubles, and one in a low-rise single.

Donaghey said that the majority of the displaced students had found housing with friends.

Residents had short notice to leave

Burton-Conner housemaster Halston W. Taylor said that students were forced to evacuate Burton Five quickly, especially those who were at class when the asbestos was discovered. “It wasn’t very much time,” Taylor said. Students had approximately two to three hours to pack for the week.

However, Taylor said that “the students I’ve talked to seem to be understanding.” The Graduate Resident Tutor on the hall and his wife also had to leave, and Taylor has been coordinating efforts to help displaced students through the GRT. “People worked together very well on this unfortunate incident.”

Taylor said he wanted to ensure that students would not suffer academically because of the relocation.

Donaghey said that carpeting in other areas of Burton-Conner had been recarpeted without incident in the past. He was uncertain if the asbestos tiles existed elsewhere in the residence. “It’s tough to say. The dorm is carpeted in different areas,” Donaghey said.

Burton-Conner mechanics are aware of the potential for finding more asbestos, and they will check for the tiles before ripping up more carpeting.

Philip M. Bernard, program director of the office of residential life and student life programs, said that MIT would likely take a more cautious approach in the future. The MIT Environmental Medical Service will most likely start inspecting tiles when carpets are replaced, Bernard said. “EMS has a better idea of where all the asbestos is, but I would expect that as we pull rugs up we should be testing the tiles underneath.”

Taylor said that MIT should take more precautions to prevent such incidents in the future. “It could be a continuing problem. The Institute should know where the asbestos is and where it’s not.”

Similar incident occurred in EC

An almost identical incident occurred last fall, when 11 East Campus residents had to be relocated because of asbestos tiles found under Fifth East carpeting when students removed the carpet.

Material containing asbestos is generally considered harmless unless it releases dust or fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. Asbestos floor tiles will not release asbestos fibers unless they are damaged or broken.