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Asbestos, other contaminants present in vacant St. John's schools

Asbestos, other contaminants present in vacant schools
The former Bishops College building in St. John’s. - Joe Gibbons

Tender documents prepared for would-be bidders on three landmark former St. John’s schools show the extent of the asbestos and other contaminants in the structures.

Booth Memorial — a former high school in the city centre — is a 63,000-square-foot structure on 3.79 acres of land and was constructed between 1950-68, according to the tender document.

Pinchin LeBlanc Environmental Ltd. found the building to contain friable (easily reduced to dust or powder and therefore more likely to release airborne fibres) and non-friable asbestos-containing material, lead acid batteries in the emergency lighting system, lead-containing solder on copper pipe fittings and lead caulking, as well as ozone-destroying substances in refrigeration equipment.

Asbestos was found in typical places — including pipe wrapping and components and a variety of ceiling and floor tiles. All asbestos-related materials were rated on whether they were in good, fair or poor condition, with most in either a good or fair state of repair.

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As well, based on sampling results, it was advised the drywall in the school should be managed as asbestos-containing material.

Water-damaged drywall and water-stained ceiling tiles could be a potential source of mold.

Nearby Bishops College on Pennywell Road is an 80,000-square-foot structure built between 1959-64. The property consists of 3.31 acres.

It too was found to contain friable and non-friable asbestos.

The environmental report on the school suggests all plaster finishes are to be treated as asbestos-containing materials, as are vinyl floor tiles, and gaskets on mechanical equipment. Among other things, mechanical insulation was found to have friable asbestos.

“The presence of materials containing asbestos will require safe handling and working procedures for any renovation or construction related activities,” the report states. “These materials will require special packaging and disposal at an approved waste facility. Plans and specifications should be developed for the handling, worker protection requirements, packaging and disposal of all identified asbestos products.”

In most situations, the items containing or suspected of containing asbestos were found to be in good or fair condition.

MacPherson Elementary on Newtown Road consists of a 49,989-square-foot building and 2.23 acres of land.

It dates back to 1948.

Besides friable and non-friable asbestos-containing materials, lead acid batteries in emergency light fixtures, lead containing solder on copper pipe fittings and lead caulking, it also has ozone-depleting substances.

In addition, the former school building has an apparent rodent infestation, as droppings were found throughout the ceiling spaces.

There is also potential for mold from water damage in a few spots.

The tenders close March 28.

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