The West Virginia University’s popular Coliseum has recently been going through a large, $15 million renovation. During the renovation, construction workers came across a piece of ceiling that they believed to contain asbestos. They immediately halted work and contacted the Environmental Health Unit, who stopped construction and closed the Coliseum.
“WVU Environmental Health and Safety John Principe said the material discovered Friday was in an area above ceilings in restroom entrances that surround the concourse. He says the asbestos did not pose a health hazard and was only exposed by renovation work. He says the Coliseum was closed immediately after the asbestos was found.”
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the Coliseum has had similar concerns. During construction work in 1999-2000, asbestos was also found. It was then believed that the problem had been resolved, but evidently some remain. The ceiling tiles were found in the restrooms along the concourse, and this did raise significant concerns about previous exposure. The issue could not have come at a worst time, as the WVU Coliseum is set to launch its commencement ceremony between May 13 and May 15.
— Eyewitness News (@wchs8fox11) May 1, 2016
The commencement ceremony is an opportunity for students and families to come together. A number of graduation ceremonies had been planned for the weekend, and it was feared that they would have to be cancelled. However, due to the significant dangers that can be posed by asbestos, management felt it was the only safe course of action. They took numerous samples from various areas of the Coliseum and had these sent out to their own laboratories, as well as to a third party testing lab.
While inconvenient, the management of the Coliseum did right in closing the place down pending investigations. Asbestos is known to be a very dangerous substance, and is believed to be responsible for 40% of workplace related deaths during the 20th century. Now that this is understood, construction workers know that work must be stopped if it is found in the area.
“Asbestos is a cause of lung cancer. And, still, at lower doses, it can cause a rarer, but terrible condition called complication Malignant Mesothelioma, which is also a cancer. It’s a cancer of the lining of the lung. Asbestos is one of the riskier things we encounter in the environment. If you had a lifelong, not just intermittent, not just as an accident, but a lifelong exposure to asbestos, because you were really working with it, the risk of lung cancer might be half as great as a lifelong cigarette smoking habit.”
Investigations Found the WVU Coliseum Safe
After just three days of testing and investigation, the basketball arena reopened. Tests did confirm that asbestos was present in the restroom ceilings, which are found in the concourse surrounding area. However, lab tests confirmed that all air samples in the Coliseum met all relevant occupancy regulatory standards. This means that there is no risk of contamination. The seating area was also tested, as was the event level, and the same results were found. These results were confirmed both by their own tests, and those of a third party. It is rare for tests to be completed as quickly, but as the Coliseum was due to reopen for a large number of ceremonies, it was felt vital to complete the tests as soon as possible.
Furthermore, safety procedures are now in place to ensure that people are not exposed to the asbestos that is present. To achieve this, access to the inside of the arena is only available through the red gate. Normal business has now commenced again for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and in the coliseum itself. Meanwhile, although there has been a three day delay in constructions, the commencement activities will be taking place as planned on May 13 through 15. Contractors will also continue with the construction work.
About the WVU Coliseum
The WVU Coliseum has been one of the nation’s top college basketball arenas in the country for 44 years. It is the pride of the Evansdale Campus, and it is enjoyed by athletes, spectators, students, and residents of Morgantown alike.
“The Coliseum first opened on Dec. 1, 1970 when the Mountaineers played host to Colgate. Nearly 10,000 showed up to see the Mountaineers defeat the Red Raiders, 113-92. Six nights later, West Virginia nearly knocked off fifth-ranked Kentucky before more than 13,000 fans to begin a long history of raucous crowds and unforgettable games.”
The WVU has also always been a true marvel of architecture. Just one year after opening, it received an architectural design award for ‘Outstanding Concrete Structure of the Year’. This is a reputation that the Coliseum wants to maintain, despite the two asbestos issues. Fortunately, both have been resolved properly, leaving the building safe and ensuring that there is no health risk present.