Langley, BC high school closed after discovery of asbestos

Walnut Grove Secondary School in Langley, BC was built in 1990.  (Google Maps – photo credit)

Walnut Grove Secondary School in Langley, BC was built in 1990. (Google Maps – photo credit)

Hundreds of students and school staff in Langley, BC are starting spring break a day early after the discovery of hazardous material following a flood earlier this month at Walnut Grove Secondary School.

On March 1, the school’s drama hall was flooded with around 2,000 students and 200 staff. Contractors hired to do the restoration discovered a type of insulation in a floor that was tested and confirmed to contain asbestos.

In a press release, the district said a reported sample indicated the presence of “a type of asbestos that is hazardous in the air.”

Exposure to asbestos, such as inhaling the fibers, can cause cancer in people many years later.

The Langley School District said contractors took steps to contain the materials and seal off the space. The school shut down its HVAC system in the affected wing and confirmed that air filters would remove the asbestos fibers from the air.

The district says it contacted WorkSafeBC to conduct an inspection.

School built in 1990

The school was open to students and staff on Thursday with the west wing closed, but a decision was made at midday to close the school and send students and staff home to better facilitate testing and work by contractors.

The school was closed on Friday for further air testing.

The district said in a statement that it had decided to test all learning spaces at the school “beyond WorkSafeBC’s expectations.”

“The health and safety of students and staff remains a priority,” the statement said.

WorkSafeBC said in an email to CBC News that it was briefed on the situation on Thursday.

“An industrial hygiene officer visited the school,” it said. “The officer has issued a halt to work on potentially affected areas of the school pending the risk assessment and any immediate hazards are under control.”

On its website, the Occupational Safety Agency says when asbestos is found: β€œThe law requires employers to hire a qualified cleanup contractor to remove it. A qualified person must also certify that the air in the workplace is safe after the asbestos abatement work is complete.”

The district said it will provide an update to employees, students and families before spring break ends on March 26.

Walnut Grove Secondary School was built in 1990. In the same year, asbestos was banned in Canada for use in vermiculite insulation.


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