A vocal crowd met in the University Center theater on the UM campus on Thursday afternoon to hear from an asbestos abatement expert on the recently revealed contamination at McGill Hall.

Scott Rogers with Environmental Solutions from Bozeman faced a crowd of professors, employees and parents of small children who have been displaced since the building was completely closed last Friday.

Rogers began by attempting to put fears to rest about asbestos exposure.

“It’s a health hazard when it enters your lungs, when it’s in the air and it’s respirable,” said Rogers. “If I breathe it in, I have the potential for health affect. As long as that asbestos is not airborne and is not becoming airborne and presenting me with a dose of this hazard, I don’t have an exposure. In fact, if you’re working in a building built before 1985 that has the floor tile, the insulation, and the other materials that exist, and you’re working in an environment that has undetectable, non-detectable asbestos fibers, you’re in the same boat as the folks in McGill Hall.”

Rogers patiently attempted to answer questions from plainly frustrated university employees and parents of children in daycare at the building, and eventually several people demanded to hear from a university official to explain why the university had not shared more detailed information about the asbestos exposure.

UM Communications Director Paula Short explained the timeline of the university’s actions.

“The university has gone with the information we were provided with from the beginning,” said Short. “What we have done is that we have sought to understand this problem over the last 10 days, and more information has become available to us as we’ve worked through this process, so initially we had a very small group of people, but we’ve expanded that by consulting with other state agencies.”

Short said the university is following proper protocol in addressing the asbestos situation.

“I can tell you that the process that the university has followed to make recommendations and to take action has been based on the information that we have,” she said. “As we continue to learn more about cleanup standards and air quality and building design and persistence and types of asbestos and the risks associated with them. We have to be agile with our decision making process, and so I think that what you’re seeing is an evolution of our own learning and understanding about this process.”

At one point, Rogers said if testing and remediation goes well, that the building could be back in operation within a week.

Along with Media Arts and Health and Human Performance Departments, McGill Hall also houses the ASUM Child Care Preschool.

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