Asbestos removal delays boiler inquiry

Asbestos is being removed from the boiler room of Patrick Gym following an explosion that left one University employee in the hospital. The investigation into the cause of the explosion is being delayed due to the removal.The employee – who requested to remain anonymous – was released from Fletcher Allen on Monday, Enrique Corredera, director of University Communications said.The removal of the asbestos, used as pipe insulation and other boiler components, is being supervised by Williston-based consulting firm ATC Associates, and is expected to take approximately three weeks. Neither the State’s Division of Fire Safety or Burlington’s Fire Marshal’s Office are scheduled to do any work or inspection until after the asbestos is removed.No explanations as to why the University used asbestos, a known toxic carcinogen, have been given.A limited number of emergency responders and other UVM employees may have been exposed to asbestos in the boiler room, according to a University press release. Those people have been identified and have undergone decontamination following their exposure. The explosion, which went off during an early-morning routine maintenance, also triggered the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) to pressure the legislature to re-examine its boiler inspection program.”It’s far too early to determine if a boiler inspection might have prevented the explosion at UVM last week,” VSEA Director Jes Kraus said.”The incident does illustrate why VSEA thought it was important to begin educating Vermonters, legislators and the press last year about what happened to the State’s boiler inspection program in 2005.”The Vt. Statehouse’s Institutions Committee decided to privatize the boiler inspection services and relinquished its oversight authority to private entities and insurance agencies, Kraus said.Prior to the State’s decision to relinquish its oversight “there were no serious boiler accidents” like the one at the Gutterson Field House, Kraus said in a VSEA press release.UVM’s boiler is not the first major accident since the State’s decision to privatize inspections and oversight. In 2007, the Labor Department’s boiler in Barre, Vt. started giving off hazardous fumes, which left several employees sick.”When the state had oversight of the inspection and National Board [of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors] employees were performing the required inspections, VSEA believes boilers across the state were safer,” Kraus said.”Today, because of privatization, VSEA is concerned that there will be more incidents like the one at UVM, so we are again sounding the alarm about this issue,” Kraus said.Normal operations of the Gutterson Fieldhouse, including the pool, resumed as of Saturday, Corredera said.