Asbestos cost APS up to $200K

Classrooms fully operational in a couple weeks, VanWagoner says

News Photo by Julie Goldberg The B-House wing in Alpena High School is open after asbestos was found. The estimated cost for the removal of asbestos and replacing equipment is between $100,000 to $200,000.

ALPENA — The estimated cost for the removal of asbestos and equipment from B-House in Alpena High School is between $100,000 to $200,000.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent John VanWagoner explained during Thursday’s Property Committee meeting that construction was immediately halted after he was informed on Aug. 21 about the concerns of floor tile containing asbestos being disturbed in the new Mechatronics room. Testing was done by Hernick Environmental in the area for asbestos.

“All of the air samples came back negative for asbestos and none of the air samples ever came back positive,” VanWagoner said. “Some of the dust samples that were taken from that room and just in the hallways directly outside of the door of that room had positive asbestos in the dust.”

Mid-State Asbestos Removal Inc. and Hernick Environmental started the abatement process with permission from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration. The cleanup took five days to complete.

“That included almost all of the equipment in that room, as well as the woodshop construction trades rooms,” VanWagoner said. “We were in the process of putting a garage door in there because the only access to the outside is through that, so essentially you could drive a forklift from there into the other room with the garage door.”

Dust samples of asbestos were found in the construction trades room, so it was cleaned but all of the equipment in the construction trades room was quarantined and has to be destroyed in a specific type of landfill.

“The issue is they cannot guarantee that there’s not asbestos-containing dust in the equipment,” VanWagoner said. “From a liability standpoint, there is no way that we can keep that with the chance that there’s something that can be harmful to our kids and staff.”

VanWagoner requested that air samples were taken everywhere in B-House, not just in the Mechatronics and woodshop construction trades rooms.

“All of them came back negative as far as asbestos goes … there was no need for a cleanup in those additional areas that I had tested but I wanted them tested, anyway,” he said. “It was good that they came back negative and it really confirmed their thoughts of what that area was limited to.”

Class has been able to somewhat continue in the Mechatronics room. VanWagoner said progress continued on Thursday with tile being installed in half of the room. The classroom equipment has been delivered and will be installed on Tuesday.

VanWagoner said the construction trades program is very light on equipment after the existing equipment had to be thrown away. He approved a small purchase under the district’s bid threshold for the class to get some basic needs of screws, drills, and wood.

“We’re trying to use through our insurance claim to be able to get a sense of where we stand with that, so we can begin to try and replace table saws and all of those things,” VanWagoner said. “It’s going to be a big chunk of money to replace all those items.”

VanWagoner is hoping that, in the next week or two, B-House is back to full strength so the students are able to continue their learning and use the classrooms.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at or 989-358-5688.