Update on construction-related asbestos contamination incident at Cowell and Stevenson Student Commons

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Lisa Wisser, Director, Environmental Health and Safety

To the campus community,

Recently, the campus learned that a construction contractor installing wall-mounted cable enclosures in Cowell and Stevenson colleges drilled holes in walls whose underlying materials contain asbestos. Unfortunately, in some areas the contractor did not fully contain the dust and debris generated by this activity. This work began in August 2018.

Upon analyzing the dust and debris and confirming that it contained asbestos, the campus immediately closed off areas containing significant debris, as well as areas sharing the same air handling system. Subsequently, UCSC’s Physical Planning, Development and Operations (PPDO) and Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) departments conducted a comprehensive inspection of all areas where the contractor drilled into walls to install cable tray. These areas are all within Cowell and Stevenson colleges. This information is now informing our response and clean up.

The inspections revealed numerous areas with minor contamination below acceptable regulatory thresholds (less than three square feet of surface contamination). As a prudent measure, a certified asbestos abatement contractor will clean any residue in these areas. This work will be completed by April 5, 2019.

The area of greatest debris contamination occurs along a 34-foot stretch of wall connecting the Stevenson servery area and the Stevenson Event Center costume room. These areas, as well as the adjacent kitchen, dining hall, Event Center and other areas served by the same air handling system, will remain closed until a certified asbestos abatement contractor can thoroughly clean all impacted areas in accordance with regulatory guidelines. This work will take several weeks and a completion date is not currently determined.

Although the construction contractor did work in residential areas, the work in these areas did not disturb asbestos-containing materials. No asbestos abatement is needed in the Cowell or Stevenson residential areas.

Although initially closed, the lower level of the Cowell and Stevenson Student Commons were not impacted by this asbestos contamination. These areas do not have asbestos-containing wall coatings, are physically separated from the contaminated areas, and have their own ventilation system. They were reopened for occupancy on Monday, March 25, 2019.

A list of all the rooms and their status will soon be available online at ucsc.edu/cowell-closure. The list will be updated regularly as more areas re-open.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material, and small amounts are often present in the air outside. For more information on potential health effects associated with asbestos exposure, see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) page online at https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/

If you have health concerns and would like medical follow up, please complete this form so that we can direct your inquiry appropriately.

I realize that hearing about this situation may be concerning to many members of our community. Please know that campus leadership, including staff from PPDO and EH&S, are working hard to coordinate the response to this situation and to address any questions or needs that you may have. Please direct any additional questions to cowell-closure@ucsc.edu.

This bulletin is in compliance with 20 U.S.C. Section 1092 (f), the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), and the Code of Federal Regulations.