Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit October 19, 2012 - 12:20 pm

Iqaluit elementary school gets major clean-up, repairs

Clean-up targets asbestos found at Nakasuk school

A big asbestos clean-up and repair project will start Nov. 1 at Iqaluit's Nakasuk School. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
A big asbestos clean-up and repair project will start Nov. 1 at Iqaluit's Nakasuk School. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

A month-long asbestos clean-up and repair job at Nakasuk School in Iqaluit starts Nov, 1, a consultant with Indoor Air Quality Ottawa said Oct. 18 during a presentation at the school library.

This work comes after a 2011 fire marshal’s report and a “designated substance survey” prepared for Nunavut’s education department this past August.

The consultants’ survey noted that asbestos could be found in the school’s pipe elbow insulation, mud joint compound, older floor tiles, ceiling tile mastic (glue), sink underlining, and insulated cement pipe fittings.

Asbestos is known to cause cancer, but the consultants say the asbestos at the school does not present a high risk and the 200-plus students and teachers at Nakasuk won’t have to take any special precautions while the clean-up is underway.

However, if someone were to disturb the material containing the asbestos during repairs or other maintenance of the fibreglass-clad building, it’s not certain what would happen.

The 22 air samples taken at the school for the GN-commissioned report showed asbestos levels “well below” the Alberta standards for asbestos.

Consultant Shawn Rankin said this doesn’t present “an inhalation hazard.”  In plain language, that means the air is okay to breathe.

Members of the clean-up crew plan to set up a temporary laboratory at the school where they will test air samples for asbestos every day.

And, every day, starting at 4 p.m., the crew will pack up one or two classrooms: they will take out all the furniture, lay tarps inside the classroom, make flap doors, and, dressed in special protective gear, they’ll strip all the ceiling tiles off.

Then special machines will filter air out of the classroom.

After that, technicians will spray the classroom with a sticky spray to lock any asbestos fibers that are still floating around.

Every night, they’ll will test the air to make sure it isn’t dangerous and put out a report every morning at 7 a.m.

If the air test doesn’t meet Alberta standards, the GN will close school that day until noon.

As for the option of shutting the school down entirely during the clean-up, that’s not in the works.

“We don’t want a loss of school time for children, that’s the most important thing,” Barry Cornthwaite, capital planner for the Government of Nunavut’s education department, said at the Oct. 18 meeting.

Besides, there isn’t any other space to put the students if the school closed, he said.

But teachers have been told they can’t come into the school on weekends during the clean-up.

A management plan for any future work in the building will also spell out how to avoid spreading any asbestos still remaining in the school structure.

“If you go to work in Nakasuk School and install new wiring in 2025, you will have to follow this management plan, which is no cutting, no coring in this section and what not,” the consultants say.

A third party company from Niagara, Ontario will monitor the air quality for 30 days after the project finishes.

No cost figure was provided for the work.

A similar clean-up took place in 2009 at Iqaluit’s Inuksuk High School as part of its multi-year $22-million renovation project.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos, commonly used in the past in building material, is known to increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma (another rare form of cancer) as well as non-malignant lung and lung lining disorders.

While the clean-up is going on, workers will also install fire doors and barriers to keep any potential fire from spreading throughout the school.

That’s because the fire marshal’s report also revealed that some of the ceiling and walls between hallways and classrooms and between the floors need patching and fire dampers or fire access doors.


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