Contel workers cause asbestos risk

By Matt James

Contel workers installing phone lines on the fourth floor of the NIU Health Center Oct. 7 removed ceiling panels that allegedly contained asbestos, dropping fragments and dust from the panels onto the floor.

Health Enhancement Services Coordinator Michael Haines said he was uncertain how much risk was posed to people that were on the floor.

e declined to comment further on the work done, saying University Health Center Director Dr. Rosemary Lane “instructed me not to talk.”

When asked if the ceiling panels removed actually contained asbestos, Lane said, “It wasn’t intentionally done, by any means.

“We’re quite aware of the situation.” Lane declined further comment.

NIU Legal Counsel George Shur said he had no idea who gave Contel permission to do the work and that Lane had issued a directive to her staff ordering no construction to be done in the health center without her clearance.

Shur said an attempt has or will be made to contact Contel to instruct them not to do further work at the health center without Lane’s consent.

“Asbestos is not dangerous until you mess around with it,” Shur said. “It’s unfortunate this has occurred, but I think it’s an isolated thing that won’t or couldn’t happen again.

“Some mistakes may have been made, but we have to get over them,” he said.

Gerardo Diaz, a legally blind NIU student who uses the handicapped services on the fourth floor of the health center, said workers had “picked up the larger pieces of paneling, but didn’t dust or clean other surfaces after the job was finished.

“No one up there (on the fourth floor) had any notion (there was still dust from the job).”

e said, “There were about 15 or 20 students eating and cooking on the fourth floor. Had I known there was the possibility of asbestos being there, I wouldn’t have been there.”

Linda Sorge, services for the handicapped coordinator, said no one at her office had been notified about the possibility of asbestos on the floor.

Sorge suggested to Diaz the next day not to eat any cake because of the possible asbestos contamination.

Diaz said when he talked to Sorge, “she was upset because no one had given us the opportunity not to be there (the night before).”

Sorge said, “I wouldn’t have been sitting on the floor there if I had known they were working with asbestos.”

She said she had heard nothing concerning the work before the bi-weekly informal meeting held that night for handicapped students.

Contel employees who did the work at the health center could not be reached for comment.