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Sunday, July 14, 2024

News in brief: UC Davis employees report asbestos exposure in Wellman, Olson Halls

This story was updated on August 24 at 1:00 pm to reflect new information. 

Two UC Davis employees and five students reported exposing students to asbestos, a carcinogenic mineral formerly used to insulate walls, while drilling holes in older buildings, according to an investigation performed by Sacramento TV station News10 in an article posted on Aug. 17.

The workers are part of the university’s Academic Technology Services Department, responsible for installing and removing video and audio equipment across campus.

According to employees Mark Kellogg and Trevor Williams, the workers drilled walls in several older buildings, including Olson and Wellman Halls, while air conditioning and ventilation systems were running and students were in the classrooms.

“We’re endangering students because of the decisions our managers are making just to get the job done,” Kellogg told News10. “The management team stood up, and they stated, ‘they’re going to be testing for asbestos. Drill the holes now, so we don’t get shut down.'”

The action is in direct violation of UC Davis’ Health and Safety Regulations which state, “Employees will be informed in writing the locations of asbestos in their work areas and they’re not allowed to drill holes in asbestos-containing materials or access areas or access areas above ceilings.”

The workers report that they have never been told where the asbestos is located and have worked several times in violation of the regulations without warning.

UC Davis records obtained by News10 showed that asbestos was found in wall texturing and joint compounds, a material used to seal sheets of drywall, in Wellman Hall. Additionally, testing also reported traces of asbestos in the floor tiles and wall panels of Olson Hall.

According to state and federal laws, structures before 1980 must be treated as if they contain asbestos. Wellman was built in 1969, and was evacuated in 2011 due to belief that asbestos had been exposed through the ventilation system.

UC Davis denies any traces of asbestos on the campus.

“Air sampling tests conducted by a certified professional showed no detection of asbestos and no health concerns for anyone entering these buildings,” the university released in a statement to News10.

In the wake of the News10 article, UC Davis issued a statement confirming the usage of asbestos in older buildings.The university, however, denies that the carcinogen is exposed or airborne in Wellman, Olson and Haring Halls, according to independent testing performed in late July by a third-party consultant.

“Recent media coverage about asbestos abatement during work in Wellman, Haring and Olson halls has caused some confusion in our community,” UC Davis issued in a statement. “First, we want to reassure students, faculty and staff that your safety is our number one priority. Independent testing by a certified third-party consultant has confirmed there is no presence of asbestos in the air in these buildings. They are safe.”

More details surrounding the investigation are to come.



Photo by Jay Gelvezon.

Jason Pham can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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