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Update on Bennett Library reopening
The Bennett Library will reopen, and regular in-person services will resume on Thursday, November 24.
Hazardous material experts have been on site since November 15 to assess the entire library building, to determine if there are any safety impacts from possible asbestos containing debris found within the building.
We understand that this has been concerning for the SFU community. Our priority has been, and always will be, the safety of everyone on campus.
Asbestos is only a health risk if you breathe in asbestos fibers that are released into the air or ingest them. Test results for the debris collected from the 2-5th floors confirm the presence of asbestos. The texture coat material present in the library is known to contain 3-5 per cent asbestos.
Air samples taken throughout all floors of the library, however, are well below regulatory limits for exposure (WorkSafeBC Regulatory limit is 0.1 fibers/cubic centimeter of air and our samples were at 0.001-0.002 levels). This suggests that despite debris found with asbestos, the risk of exposure to asbestos by our students, faculty and staff is very low.
SFU is exploring options to safely remove the ceiling texture coat in the building, but it would need to be a phased approach based on the time it takes for containment and removal and the impact to closing sections of the library.
Asbestos is safe when sealed and undisturbed. To prevent further debris from dislodging from the ceiling, contractors have encapsulated (applied a specialized coating) the ceilings on floors 3 and 4. Some sections of the 2nd floor could not be encapsulated, therefore the window bays in the northeast corner have been sealed and hoarded off temporarily until full removal of the texture coat can be performed in that area.
As most of the debris was found on the fifth floor, that floor has been sealed off and will remain closed while options to deal with the ceiling are explored. Staff who worked on the fifth floor will be moved to alternate locations.
Before the library is reopened, all floors of the library are being cleaned by qualified contractors and air samples will be tested again. The texture coat and encapsulant work will be inspected regularly.
Asbestos is found in most older buildings across North America, which includes many buildings across SFU’s Burnaby campus. SFU has an Asbestos Exposure Control Plan in place that outlines how asbestos-containing materials are managed on our campuses. The library was inspected in July 2022 by a certified contractor, and no concerns or debris were documented at that time.
For more information on the risks of asbestos visit HealthLink BC.
Although the risk of asbestos exposure in this situation is very low, anyone who works in the library that is concerned that they may have been exposed can register with the WorkSafeBC Asbestos Registry Program.
If you have additional questions, please contact SFU Environmental Health and Safety at firstname.lastname@example.org.